Ruby Walsh: Don Cossack’s retirement and Coneygree’s absence doesn’t alter the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture

It's a big loss to connections & the racing public, but we were never really certain that the last two winners of the Gold Cup would line up in March

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It’s disappointing for connections and the racing public that reigning Gold Cup champ Don Cossack has been retired.

With the last two Gold Cup winners now not lining up on March 17, (2015 champ Coneygree was ruled out earlier this week) it just shows how you’re always walking a tightrope, particularly when these top-class performers get injured.

It’s very difficult to get past champions to keep on winning races at the Festival and highlights why top-class racehorses can’t run as frequently as we’d all like.

People slated Henrietta Knight for being very selective about how she campaigned triple Gold Cup winner (2002-04) Best Mate – but she was proven right.

Even the great Kauto Star only regained his crown (2007, 09) after Denman beat him in 2008. I’ve said it time and again that horses aren’t like cars. You can’t just keep turning them on and off when you’re ready.

The old adage is true. A brilliant horse is a sound horse.

djakadam

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Even though the previous two winners are missing, I don’t think it changes this year’s Gold Cup picture a great deal.

We know they’re out now, but the reality was we were never really certain that they were in.

How this effects Djakadam’s chances for better or worse, I don’t know at this stage. I always felt the Lexus Chase at Christmas (when he was third to Outlander) may have come too soon after his Punchestown win, a little over a fortnight earlier.

However, there’s plenty of time for him to run again in either the Cotswolds Chase at Cheltenham on January 28 or the Irish Gold Cup on February 12. Willie Mullins will decide what suits his schedule best.

Biased

I know I’m biased and would like to think that Djakadam is the biggest danger to ante-post Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack as he’s been placed in the last two Blue Ribands.

However, Native River’s two wins when carrying top weight – or close to it – in the Hennessy Gold Cup & Welsh Grand National shows he’s improving this season. Don’t forget he also won the Grade One Novices’ Chase at Aintree last season.

I would have loved for Djakadam to have won the Lexus so he could be going into his next race with his chest out saying ‘we’ll take them all on’.

But there’s no substitute for winning – even if I still think he’s a very good horse.

Hopefully, we can get him to Cheltenham in good form and take it from there.

Ignore last run

You can put a line through American Tom’s run at Naas last weekend. He was never travelling and even though I’d set off in front they’d all passed me and he was just never taking me from fence to fence like he should have done before he fell.

I’d imagine he’ll have to run again somewhere to see if Cheltenham 2017 is still a live prospect.

Augusta Kate was running a cracker until she tipped up at the final flight. She was a bit green going to the second last and just wandered about slightly, but she did quicken up smartly to join Death Duty at the last.

Unfortunately, she just caught the top of it and landed out on her shoulder. Death Duty galloped strongly to the line and connections felt he would have won anyway even if Augusta Kate had jumped the last with him.

I just wish we stayed up to find out for sure though.

It’s only early January so another run before a Cheltenham decision seems likely.