Bryan Cooper breaks leg and misses Gold Cup ride on Last Instalment

• Cooper had been due to ride for Philip Fenton in the big race
• Jockey likely to be ruled out for the rest of the jumps season

Bryan Cooper, who had been due to ride Last Instalment for Philip Fenton in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Friday, could miss the remainder of the National Hunt season after breaking a leg in a fall at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

Cooper is one of the rising stars of the weighing room and was appointed first jockey to the leading Irish owner Michael O'Leary, the owner of Last Instalment, this season. He was riding O'Leary's Clarcam in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle and had just edged into a narrow lead when falling two out. "He's broken two bones in one of his legs," Eddie O'Leary, Michael's brother and racing manager said later. "It's the tibia and fibula [in his right leg]."

Cooper returned to race-riding in September after breaking a leg in a fall at Down Royal last May. He rode three winners at the Cheltenham Festival last season, including Our Conor in the Triumph Hurdle, but was aboard the same horse when he suffered a fatal fall in Tuesday's Champion Hurdle.

Fenton, whose horses are the subject of intense scrutiny at this year's meeting as he prepares for a court appearance scheduled for next week on charges of illegal possession of veterinary products, including anabolic steroids, said that he will discuss the ride with Last Instalment's owner before booking a replacement for Cooper.

"I've no thoughts yet," Fenton said. "I'll need to consult with Michael and Eddie O'Leary and we'll see closer to the time.

"I'd love to see some water on the course [before Friday]. I believe they're going to put some water on tonight, so we'll just have to see how much goes on."

Brian O'Connell, who rode two horses for Fenton at the Festival on Wednesday, partnered Last Instalment to victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February and is an obvious candidate for the ride if Last Instalment goes to post.

O'Connell was unplaced on both the 2009 Champion Bumper winner Dunguib – who was retired after being pulled up lame in the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle – and Value At Risk, Fenton's runner in the Champion Bumper.

Akdam, who was brought down by the fall of Clarcam, was put down after breaking a front leg. Stack the Deck fractured a knee in the Bumper and was also destroyed.

Simon Claisse, Cheltenham's clerk of the course, later confirmed that the New Course, which stages the final two days of the Festival meeting, would be "selectively" watered. "We are going to put 3mm to 5mm on the bits of quicker ground and I expect to be watering to 1am," Claisse said. "We have a dry and sunny forecast and it is due to get warmer."

Wednesday's racing started with a near-facsimile of the opening contest on day one as Willie Mullins's Faugheen, ridden by Ruby Walsh in the spotted pink colours of Rich Ricci, bounded clear in the straight and flew the last in the Neptune Novice Hurdle on the way to an easy success.

Like Vautour, who took the Supreme Novice Hurdle on Tuesday, Faugheen is likely to head straight over fences next season. At this stage, however, Mullins has little doubt about which of them is the better prospect. "I thought Vautour was hugely exceptional," Mullins said. "I thought that was different league. Maybe yesterday's wasn't a great race, I don't know, but what he did blew me away. What this horse did today was grand and everything else, but I didn't think it was anything like that.

"When he [Faugheen] blundered through the third-last I thought: 'Maybe that's it now, he'll fall in a heap,' but he didn't, he picked himself up off the ground and flew up the straight. That shows that he's a bit above-average.

"Everyone is trying to make hurdlers out of my chasers but to me they were bought as chasers, and until we sit down and say we're going to go down another route with them, I'm considering them as chasers anyhow."

Ballycasey, another Mullins-trained favourite in the Ricci colours, could finish only fourth in the RSA Chase behind O'Faolains Boy, whose jockey Barry Geraghty (30) overtook Tony McCoy (29) on the all-time list for winners at the Festival as he held on to beat Smad Place by a neck.

Ruby Walsh drew a blank on the remainder of the card but still leads the way in the race to be the week's top rider with three victories.

Tony McCoy, however, is still waiting for his first after another frustrating afternoon. McCoy finished second to Jezki, a horse he could have chosen to ride, in Tuesday's Champion Hurdle and was just touched off in a desperate finish to the Coral Cup. McCoy came with a flying charge up the hill but went down by a short-head to Whisper and Nico de Boinville.

Later he was on the turf, after being brought down on the well-fancied Goodwood Mirage in the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle. © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

About the Author

Comments are closed.