The Don

'Real sickener' as Cheltenham Gold Cup champ Don Cossack retired

Ten-year-old retired following further injury setback.

Don Cossack ridden by Bryan Cooper comes home to win Dan Sheridan / INPHO Don Cossack wins the 2016 Gold Cup in the hands of an ecstatic Bryan Cooper. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

DON COSSACK, THE 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup champion and “the horse of a lifetime,” has been retired from racing following a further injury setback.

“We found that he had a bit of heat in his leg on Monday and we’ve made the decision to call time,” trainer Gordon Elliot revealed on Wednesday morning.

“It’s a real sickener.”

The superstar of Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud, many hoped that Don Cossack would be fit to return to Cheltenham later this year and defend his Gold Cup crown in a mouth-watering showdown against Thistlecrack.

The multiple Grade 1 winner established himself as the king of the staying chasers last March when, at the age of nine, he won the festival’s showpiece event by four-and-a-half lengths from Djakadam.

But he suffered a tendon injury the following month and has been off the course since then.

“He’s a horse of a lifetime and he owes us nothing,” Elliot wrote in his blog for Betfair.

“I said all season that if he had any sort of setback at all we would not abuse him and we’d retire him straight away.”

“He retires a champion,” Elliot added.

Simon McGonagle on Don Cossack Cathal Noonan / INPHO Simon McGonagle rides Don Cossack on the Cullentra gallops. Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

The decision to keep Don Cossack in training for another 12 months in the hope of a delayed comeback would have been unfair, Gigginstown said in their own statement.

“Given his age, the decision was taken to intensively treat the injury in the hope that he could return to defend his title in 2017 (at which stage he will be 10 years old).

“Despite the herculean efforts of the veterinary team at Fethard Equine, the rehab work done by Ciaran Murphy & Dot Love at Charlestown Stud, and most notably the 24-hour care and attention he received from Gordon Elliott and his team at Cullentra House, we learned yesterday that heat had reappeared in the leg and scans show a 15% tear of the tendon.

“Both Gigginstown and Gordon believe that it would be unfair on Don Cossack to treat this tendon injury for another 12 months, and then ask him to try to regain the Gold Cup at the age of 11.

“Accordingly we are all agreed that the horse’s welfare will be best served by treating the tendon injury now, and retiring him to the paddocks at Gigginstown, where he will join fellow Gold Cup winner War of Attrition, for what we hope will be a long, and well deserved retirement.”

Don Cossack Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

O’Leary thanked all of Elliot’s team at Cullentra for their work in training Don Cossack to his Gold Cup triumph and then in trying to bring him back to full fitness.

“Gordon left no stone unturned to help Don Cossack return to defend his title but alas it is not to be. At the age of 10 we are all agreed that the best thing for ‘the Don’ is a well-earned and very well pampered retirement in Gigginstown.”

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