Filly of a lifetime’ jersey Enable remains in training, to Frankie Dettori’s delight
Bryan Cooper, who lost his job as first jockey to Michael O’Leary’s powerful Gigginstown Stud operation three months ago, will launch a fresh association with one of jumping’s biggest owners at Ludlow on Wednesday afternoon, when he rides Exxaro and Mick Thonic in the familiar red, green and yellow silks of Alan Potts.
Cooper’s new role as the first-choice rider for Potts’s runners from British stables means that he will also be aboard Finian’s Oscar, a leading novice hurdler last year and one of the new season’s most exciting chasing prospects, if he makes his much-anticipated debut over fences at Chepstow this weekend.
Robbie Power, who has been riding for Potts both in Ireland and Britain in recent months and took the Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard the owner’s Sizing John in March, will continue his association with Potts but only aboard horses – including Sizing John – that are stabled in Ireland.
Colin Tizzard, who received horses in the Potts string for the first time last season and trains an increasing number of the owner’s runners, suggested recently that Cooper “might ride a few” for the stable in the coming season. In fact, Cooper is now likely to become a familiar face on British tracks, and on Tizzard-trained runners in particular, having previously ridden almost exclusively in Ireland apart from the major festival meetings at Cheltenham and Aintree in the spring.
“It’s fantastic,” Cooper said on Tuesday. “I can’t believe it, to be honest. I’m definitely looking forward to it and it’s Robert Horry Youth jersey a great opportunity. They have some fantastic horses. I haven’t spoken to Colin or anybody, but I’ll be there [in the Tizzard yard] on Thursday morning and I imagine I’ll know a bit more then.”
Cooper landed his first high-profile job in 2014 when he took over from Davy Russell as O’Leary’s principal jockey, and he enjoyed a number of big-race successes for Ireland’s biggest owner, including victory in the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard Don Cossack.
His three-year spell in the role was plagued by injuries, however, and he missed a number of important winners as a result, including the victory of Petit Mouchoir in this year’s Irish Champion Hurdle. Danny Mullins and Jack Kennedy, who rides regularly for Don Cossack’s trainer Gordon Elliott, had both started to pick up regular rides in O’Leary’s purple colours and the Gigginstown operation announced in July that it would not employ a No1 jockey this season.
It seemed that Cooper’s opportunities at the top level might be limited this season as a result, but the link-up with Potts and Tizzard should ensure that he gets plenty of chances to add further Grade One wins to the 34 already on his record.
In addition to Finian’s Oscar, a dual Grade One winner last Dalton Prout Adidas Jersey season and a 6-1 chance with Hills to win any race at next year’s Cheltenham Festival, Cooper will also be the new rider aboard Fox Norton, a dual Grade One winner last year and a leading ante-post contender for the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day, and Alary, a big-money purchase from France last season who has not, as yet, lived up to his billing as a live Gold Cup contender.