Posted: 14th Oct 2015
DON Cossack returns to Punchestown where last season's campaign started successfully as he bids to try and win the Irish Daily Star Chase (4.30) for the second consecutive year on Thursday.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned chaser is in a very different place in terms of profile to where he was 12 months ago when he had plenty of questions to answer following a novice season which had proved inconclusive despite a Grade 1 victory at Fairyhouse.
However, after winning today's Grade 3 event Don Cossack went on to enjoy a hugely successful campaign, winning five of his six subsequent starts and enjoying top level successes on three occasions.
Two of those Grade 1 successes were achieved at Punchestown where he won the John Durkan Memorial Chase and the Bibby Financial Services Punchestown Gold Cup in which he beat the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup second and third, Djakadam and Road To Riches, decisively.
His seven length defeat Djakadam saw the Gordon Elliott-trained eight-year-old promototed to the top of Ireland's steeplechase rankings, with senior handicapper Noel O'Brien giving him a rating of 175, a mark which put him 4lb above Vautour and 7lb higher than Djakadam, Un De Sceaux and Special Tiara.
Don Cossack faces four rivals, including two trained by Elliott for Gigginstown, Roi Du Mee and Bright New Dawn, and speaking yesterday Elliott said: "Don Cossack is in good order. I'd say he's about 80 to 85 per cent fit and I want to get a race into him. The plan is to run if the ground is good and, hopefully, once they water tonight it will be.
"We were delighted with the progress Don Cossack made last season. He was a stronger horse than in the past and he was finishing off his races much better
"Roi Du Mee has been a great old servant and is ready to start his season while Bright New Dawn will be having his first run for us."
The ground at Punchestown was officially "good, good to firm in places " yesterday
Cailin Annamh will be bidding for a fifth win over fences and is on a hat-trick following wins over just short of today's trip at the Galway festival and at Gowran Park where she landed a Grade 2 event over 2m4f early this month.
Her trainer Jessica Harrington saidyesterday : "We're going to be up against it but our mare is fit and ready to go whereas Gordon(Elliott)'s three are all returning from their summer breaks. She loves good ground, so we'll see how things go." The Steve Mahon-trained Aranhill Chief completes the line-up.
The Game Changer, who represents the Elliott-Gigginstown alliance in the Grade 3 Buck House Novice Chase(3.55), will be bidding for a hat-trick following wins at a similar level of competition at Roscommon and Tipperary. He will be renewing rivalry with Sizing Platinum whom he beat by two and a half lengths at Roscommon where the Henry de Bromhead-trained seven-year-old was on a hat-trick.
Elliott said:"The Game Changer is in good form and will like the ground. Sizing Platinum is a couple of pounds better off with him this time, so there shouldn't be much between them."
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