Cheltenham Gold Cup 2016 – Don Cossack

The 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup featured a relatively small, but select, field of nine runners, five of whom were trained in Ireland. Don Cossack, trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Bryan Cooper, was sent off favourite at 9/4, despite having fallen at the second last, when staying on, in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. The winner that day was Cue Card, trained by Colin Tizzard and ridden by Paddy Brennan, who reopposed, on the same terms, in the Gold Cup and, understandably, started second-favourite at 5/2.

O’Faolains Boy, trained by Rebecca Curtis, and Smad Place, trained by Alan King, disputed the lead for much of the way but, when the race began in earnest, over the final three fences, both were soon left behind. The complexion of the race changed dramatically when Cue Card, who had been disputing the lead, travelling well, fell at the third last. Shortly afterwards, Don Cossack took the lead from the 2015 runner-up, Djakadam, trained by Willie Mullins, and soon took a commanding advantage. On the run-in, Don Cossack only had to be pushed out to beat Djakadam by 4½ lengths and provide Elliott and Cooper with their first victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Don Poli, owned, like Don Cossack, by Gigginstown House Stud and one of a trio trained by Willie Mullins, stayed on from well off the pace to finish third, beaten a further 10 lengths, but never really posed any threat to the leading pair. Nevertheless, he did complete a notable 1-2-3 in the Cheltenham Gold Cup for Irish-trained horses. However, Willie Mullins saddled the runner-up for the sixth time, without ever having won the ‘Blue Riband’ event of British steeplechasing.