Gigginstown House Stud manager Eddie O’Leary expects jockey Bryan Cooper to wait until the last minute before deciding which horse he will ride in this season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The leading owners have a formidable hand for the blue riband, with Don Cossack and Don Poli both prominent in the betting, not to mention last year’s third Road To Riches.
Don Cossack is heading straight to Prestbury Park having bounced back from his fall in the King George VI Chase at Kempton with a workmanlike victory in last week’s Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles, while last year’s RSA Chase hero Don Poli made it two from two for the season in Leopardstown’s Lexus Chase over the Festive period.
With Road To Riches on the comeback trail having missed an intended outing in the Lexus due to being under the weather, Cooper will have a tough choice to make come March.
O’Leary said: “If I was Bryan, I’d leave it until just before declaration time for the Gold Cup.
“There are plenty of good jockeys around, so we’re not going to be short of options.”
O’Leary confirmed the Noel Meade-trained Road To Riches is on course to return in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 6, but it is not yet certain Don Poli will also line up in the Grade One event formerly known as the Hennessy.
“We’re hoping Road To Riches will run in the Irish Gold Cup. Whether Don Poli runs there as well is up to Willie (Mullins).
"If he wants him to run then great, if he doesn’t, that’s great as well,” said O’Leary.
“That is the plan for Road and we’ll leave it up to Willie to decide with the other horse.”
Don Cossack was eased in the Gold Cup betting by some bookmakers following last week’s Thurles triumph, but O’Leary expects him to raise his game on a sounder surface.
He said: “I don’t know why a lot of people seem to be down about this horse — we were thrilled with him.
“The idea was to give him a school round and go to Cheltenham off the back of a win rather than off the back of a fall at Kempton and he got the job done.
“Two and a half miles on very heavy ground at Thurles was never going to suit him and we know he’ll be a far better horse on better ground — he bounces off better ground.”
A sparkling winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Douvan has looked nigh-on unbeatable in two runs over fences this season.
Stablemates Avant Tout, Net D’Ecosse and the top-class pair of Outlander and Shaneshill could also run.
Alan Fleming’s Velvet Maker, third to Douvan over Christmas, and Jessica Harrington’s Ttebbob, who failed to give his running that day, are also engaged. Henry de Bromhead may run Domesday Book.
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