Wednesday 12 February 2020

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2016

The 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Timico, featured just nine runners, but was nonetheless a dramatic contest, in which the market leaders came to the fore. The race was won by then 9-year-old Don Cossack, owned by Gigginstown House Stud, trained by Gordon Elliot in Co. Meath and ridden by Bryan Cooper. In fact, the 9/4 favourite led home an Irish 1-2-3, with the second, Djakadam, and the third, Don Poli, trained by Willie Mullins in Co. Carlow.

Leading domestic fancy Cue Card, who was chasing a £1 million bonus after previously winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the King George VI Chase at Kempton, was sent off 5/2 second favourite, but crashed out of the race at the third last fence when travelling well within himself. Whether he would have won or not is debatable, but his departure left the way clear for Don Cossack and the 2015 runner-up Djakadam to fight out the finish.

Don Cossack took the lead at the third last fence and, with Djakadam failing to jump the second last with any real fluency, had the race in safe keeping from the last, staying on well up the hill to win by 4½ lengths. Don Poli, also owned by Gigginstown House Stud, stayed on from well off the pace to finish third, a further 10 lengths away, but never posed a threat to the front pair at any stage.

Don Cossack, who pulled off a shoe in mid-race, was a first Cheltenham Gold Cup winner for trainer Gordon Elliot, but an eighth Festival success overall. Elliot said, “I’ve never been so nervous in my life. I’m just so happy for all of us, all the staff in the yard, my mother and father. It means so much to me to win a Gold Cup. It was something special.”

Sadly, Don Cossack was sidelined with a tendon injury the following April and never raced again. Announcing his retirement in January, 2017, Elliot said, “He’s a horse of a lifetime and he owes us nothing. I said all season that if he had any sort of setback at all we would not abuse him and retire him straight away.”

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