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Monday, 17 December, 2018

The life of Bryan begins new chapter as Cooper seeks first Plate

David Jennings on a day of extra significance for one rider

Bryan Cooper: Gold Cup winning jockey won't be short of takers after his split with Gigginstown
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The life of Bryan might not warrant a film just yet, so John Cleese and his Monty Python pals can hold fire for now, but Cooper has packed quite a few compelling chapters into his autobiography in 24 short years.

Admired by Gigginstown. Wanted by Gigginstown. First choice for Gigginstown. Adored by Gigginstown. Questioned by Gigginstown. Not good enough to be number one for Gigginstown. Still riding for Gigginstown. It has been a rollercoaster of a relationship.

Cooper's love-affair with Galway has been on the rocks for a long time too. He has had just five rides at the summer festival in the last four years. He missed the wonderful week in 2013 with a broken left leg, the 2014 one with a broken right leg, and a dislocated thumb kept him away in 2015.

He finally made it back here in 2016 but Tiger Roll sent him crashing into the take-off board of the final fence and left him with a laceration of his liver and a collapsed lung. Galway has not been good to him.

It is about time he got his own back on Ballybrit and what better way to do so than win Galway Plate (5.35), one of the showpieces of the summer, on a horse owned by the men who sacked him five days ago. This stuff writes itself.

Eddie O'Leary of Gigginstown promised him rides despite the demotion and he has stayed true to his word. Cooper will collaborate with A Toi Phil in Wednesday's feature. He has won on him before but since that success their form figures together are 7P6. 

A Toi Phil is as big as 20-1 so you sense that the O'Leary brothers have not given Cooper the cream of their crop. That, it seems, has gone to Cooper's predecessor Davy Russell.

He's been booked for Balko Des Flos - a second-season novice trained by Henry de Bromhead, who ran in the hot 2m5f novice handicap chase at the Punchestown festival in April. Ring any bells? It should, 2015 winner Shanahan's Turn ticked all those boxes too.

De Bromhead could have seven runners in the big race. He is guaranteed half a dozen but perhaps his most intriguing contenders is On Fiddlers Green, who is only the third reserve.

But all hope for Henry and the horse's ante-post backers is not lost - Carlingford Lough was a reserve in 2013 but sneaked into the line-up because the fellow JP McManus-owned Like Your Style was deemed to no longer be favoured by soft ground, despite his previous two victories coming on, you guessed it, soft ground.

It will be fascinating to see whether On Fiddlers Green makes the cut.

Road To Riches has definitely made the cut. It will be his third appearance in the Plate. He was breathtaking when winning it in 2014 but was pulled up last year, so which Road To Riches will show up?

Ever wondered why he performed so poorly when a hot favourite last year? It turns out his spleen had moved to the wrong side of his stomach and his whole insides had been twisted. Feeling guilty about the expletives that came out of your mouth when Cooper pulled up him before the two fences in the dip? If you're not, you should be.

You should also be feeling guilty if you've ever called Ballycasey anything other than brilliant. The gorgeous grey is back for another crack, having finished third behind Lord Scoundrel 12 months ago. Since then he has won five of his eight starts and there is no more glorious sight in racing than watching him soar over fences.

Patrick Mullins experiences the thrill of riding him here, with Ruby Walsh staying loyal to Shaneshill, who is on something of a retrieval mission on his return to fences.

Another on the road to redemption is Churchill. Apparently Goodwood is glorious and Aidan O'Brien will surely agree if Churchill can bounce back to his best in the Qatar Sussex Stakes. 

The dual Guineas hero had his reputation tarnished at Royal Ascot when battered by Barney Roy, but he's better than that. You know it. I know it. Aidan knows it. Ryan knows it.

The problem, though, is a rattling good rival in Ribchester. He's been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. He's favourite and deserves to be. Churchill is the one with questions to answer.

But proving people wrong is sweet. The Churchill team will take great pleasure should they secure the Sussex, but not as much pleasure as Cooper would get out of winning his first Galway Plate on A Toi Phil. 

The life of Bryan is only just beginning.

Cooper's love-affair with Galway has been on the rocks for a long time too. He has had just five rides at the summer festival in the last four years
E.W. Terms
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