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Published: 12th January 2017

PA Sport

The Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup has been dealt another blow after it was revealed last season’s hero Don Cossack had been retired – just two hours before the entries for this year’s race were formally announced.
Not seen since lifting the blue riband last March, trainer Gordon Elliott had been happy with the 10-year-old’s recovery and only recently said he was on course to return to action next month before defending his crown.
However, connections always insisted he would be retired if he met with any further complications and their worst fears were realised after Don Cossack developed heat in one of his legs.
Owner Michael O’Leary said: “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.”
The news comes just days after 2015 winner Coneygree was ruled out of the race as he continues to recover from a setback.
PA Sport Don Cossack image
Elliott still has four possible contenders in Don Poli, Empire Of Dirt, Outlander and Roi Des Francs.
Ante-post favourite Thistlecrack, odds-on in most places, is one of five possible runners for trainer Colin Tizzard amongst a total of 39 entries for the Gold Cup on March 17.
Cue Card, Native River, Alary and Theatre Guide also feature for the Dorset handler, who can be backed at just 16-1 to saddle the first three home in the race.
Henry de Bromhead has three contenders in Champagne West, Sub Lieutenant and Valseur Lido, with Jonjo O’Neill also triple-handed at this stage with Minella Rocco, More Of That and Taquin Du Seuil.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has two possibles in Silviniaco Conti and Saphir Du Rheu, while Willie Mullins has entered dual runner-up Djakadam and the versatile mare Vroum Vroum Mag.
Former winner Lord Windermere, 2015 Hennessy hero Smad Place and Betfair Chase third Vezelay, from France, have also been entered.
Also included is Zabana, who ran well in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Trainer Andrew Lynch will be hoping for better luck than at the Festival last year when his inmate unseated Davy Russell at the start of the JLT Novices’ Chase.
“Zabana is just ticking over at the moment and could run next in the Irish Gold Cup depending on the ground,” said Lynch.
“He went a bit wide in the Lexus and I think he will get closer to them next time. That’s what I am hoping.
“He is in the Gold Cup and also in the Ryanair.
“I would have no problem going for the Gold Cup as he loves Cheltenham and the trip will be no problem.”
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