Michael O’Leary rang me an hour ago with the news that Don Cossack had been retired, and it is obviously a big blow to all concerned.
He gave me the highest point of my career when we won the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March, and that day will take some beating whatever I now achieve in the saddle.
I was actually beaten on my first three rides on him and he was a bit disappointing in his novice chase campaign after he won the Drinmore, but when I rode him on his return at Punchestown the following season after a summer break he was a lot stronger and a totally different horse.
We knew then we had a horse with the ability to reach the top and his only defeats afterwards were a disappointing third in the Ryanair and when he fell when coming there with every chance in last season’s King George.
In my opinion, he was a 10-15lb better horse on good ground, and I think the formbook backs that up, too.
He may have handled soft ground but that was just his huge natural ability getting him through it, and riding him on decent ground gave you a completely different feel and experience.
I imagine it will be a long while before I sit on another as good as him. On his day he was outstanding, and at least he bowed out on a high on the racecourse.
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