DON Cossack will race no more. The 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner has been retired, trainer Gordon Elliott has confirmed.
Racing in the colours of Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud, Don Cossack won the Gold Cup by almost five lengths last March and started favourite.
Plans to run at Punchestown a month later had to be scrapped when the Sholokhov gelding suffered a tendon injury. O'Leary played down the prospects of the horse ever returning to the track but Elliott had been much more upbeat and was planning a comeback race for Don Cossack either at Thurles late this month or at Gowran Park in February.
However, on Wednesday morning Elliott reported that the 10-year-old had heat in his leg and a decision had been taken not to continue with his training.
Writing on his Betfair blog, the trainer said: ''I am very sad to report that Don Cossack has suffered a setback and will now be retired. We found that he had a bit of heat in his leg yesterday and we've made the decision to call time.
“It's a real sickener for Gigginstown, myself, Bryan Cooper and the whole yard. We knew it was never certain we would get him back to the racecourse and even after that, to get him back to his best, but we were hopeful and he was on track for a run at Gowran Park next month.”
Don Cossack won 16 of his 27 races and won his connections more than £900,000 in prize money.
He was beaten just twice in 12 starts since October 2014. His only defeats were when third in the 2015 Ryanair Chase and when falling two out in the 2015 King George VI Chase when still holding every chance.
“He's a horse of a lifetime and he owes us nothing,” Elliott said. “I said all season that if he had any sort of setback at all we would not abuse him and retire him straight away.
“He's won Grade 1s at Cheltenham, Aintree, Punchestown, Fairyhouse and Down Royal. He was the top-rated horse in Britain and Ireland for the last two seasons running and we’d have loved to see him take on Thistlecrack in the Gold Cup.
“It would have been a cracking race. That’s racing, as they say, and we have to let that go now and find something else to take on Thistlecrack.”
He added: “It was one of the highlights of my career when Don Cossack won the Gold Cup for us last year and he retires a champion. As I said already, he owes us absolutely nothing and a peaceful retirement awaits him out in Gigginstown.’’
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