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Bryan Cooper: Townend Is Up There With Ruby Walsh And Barry Geraghty

Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty are legends of horse racing and one former jockey believes Paul Townend belongs in that same conversation.

That former jockey is recently retired Cheltenham Gold Cup winning jockey Bryan Cooper.

The Co. Kerry native was glowing in his praise of Paul Townend’s status in the history of the sport and also spoke to us about his own retirement, how Frankie Dettori will deal with his retirement along with Harry Cobden’s chances in the UK Jockey Championship and much more.

Paul Townend’s Status As A Legendary Jockey

How close is Paul Townend to Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty’s legend status?

I think Paul Townend is up there with Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty, I don’t think Paul currently gets some of the recognition that he deserves. His Cheltenham strike rate is brilliant and he’s been riding Grade One winners since being 18 years of age.

Since he’s stepped into the number one job at Willie’s, he’s grown even more and he doesn’t get things wrong. He’s tactically very good and he’s always in the right place, I couldn’t name one race last year where he left things behind him.

He delivers every single day, keep things so simple and I’d have him up there with Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty, they were incredible jockeys, especially at Cheltenham, and Paul could surpass their records if he keeps going as he is.

At the minute, Paul doesn’t have the credit he deserves. Willie is bigger than he has ever been. Paul is picking the right ones to ride and he’s never getting it wrong, he’s delivering more than any rider at the moment.

He’s not a big media or social media person, he likes to keep to himself and that’s probably why he doesn’t get some of the recognition he deserves, but that’s the way he wants to do it. People around him know how good he is and that’s what really matters.

Jack Kennedy and Paul Townend have a great opportunity to win the jockey’s championship as they’re with two of the best trainers. Jack Kennedy has had a very rough time with injuries and I feel that if he had a clearer run last year then he would have definitely given Paul a good run for his money.

Paul has been able to be selective of what he rides in the summer but I think he’ll want to be 10-15 winners ahead of Jack come Punchestown at the end of the season because they can rack up winners quickly. If Jack gives it a good go and his agent does a good job for him then he’ll be right there.

Bryan Cooper Closes Door On Potential Return

Will you do a Davy Russell and return from retirement?

I’m out the door, I definitely won’t be coming back. I have no regrets about my decision, I’m very content. I’ve never been as happy doing what I’m doing now. I love still being involved in the industry, just not race-riding. There will be no shock announcement of my comeback. Maybe if there was a charity race, that would be the height of it.

I doubt Davy Russell will return to racing again – Edelle, his wife, will be holding him back! It was great to see him go out the second time, he had a great Aintree and that meant more to him than when he bowed out in January the first time.

Frankie Dettori’s Retirement

How do you think Frankie Dettori will take to retirement and what advice would you give him?

Frankie will be a lot busier when he retires than I am! He’s such a high-profile name and so good for the sport, he’s a very good people person. I’ve been very fortunate to be in his company a few times and he’s great to everyone around him, he gives everyone attention.

I can see him making a few TV appearances, he’s great for the cameras and does a lot of good for the sport. He won’t be short of things to do. Keep busy is the advice I would give, the busier you are the better.

Frankie is in a league of his own, himself and Ryan Moore are so far ahead of the other riders at the minute. Rachael was at Wimbledon in the Royal Box, so she’s definitely up there with Frankie. Frankie is great to the public, so it will take a very big person to fill those boots. He has everything, he’s an entertainer and a top-class professional.

Harry Cobden’s Chances Of Winning The UK Jockey’s Championship

Do you think Harry Cobden has a strong chance to win the UK jockey’s championship?

Champion Jockey is a big deal in the UK and probably means more than what it does in Ireland. A lot of people set out to win it in the UK and Sean Bowen, Brian Hughes and Harry Cobden seem to be going for it.

If Harry has the winter he had last year, I think it will help him because October, November and December is a time when he has lots of winners – something three or four each day. He’ll have to be injury free the whole season because Sean and Brian are very hungry and they’re riding more winners in the summer.

Is Harry Cobden’s number one status at Paul Nicholls’ yard a hindrance to his title bid?

It’s up to Harry’s agent to manage the situation with the trainers if he wants to win the title. Paul would love to see him as Champion Jockey, he’s said that in one of his interviews, so he will support him as much as he can.

However, in my experience of riding for big trainers, is that they want you every day – he won’t be skipping off to ride one for another trainer at a different racecourse is Paul Nicholls has one at Ascot that’s 25/1 and I know the conversation will be ‘either you’re my number one jockey or you’re not’.

Harry will have to juggle that, but that’s what you have an agent for and I’m sure they’ll do a very good managing it.

Damage Done To Horse Racing By Dylan Kitts Ride

Dylan has had his license suspended, but this is not a one-man case, there were one or two other people involved in what happened that day and Dylan may have been thrown under the bus.

It was shocking to see and it didn’t look good. There’s no room for that in our sport, I’m not a fan of it. Hopefully, this will set an example and it won’t happen again in the future.

Early Cheltenham 2024 Preview

Galopin Des Champs and Constitution Hill are already short odds for Cheltenham – what does that say about the standard of the other horses in each division?

The Gold Cup is more open than the Champion Hurdle. There was only three or four lengths between Galopin Des Champ and Bravemansgame last year, then both were turned over by Fastorslow, so that division is closer and the prices show that. It’s a lot harder to win a second Gold Cup the year after than come back and win a Champion Hurdle consecutively.

I’d rather have my money on Constitution Hill at 4/6 than Galopin Des Champs at 7/4 because I don’t think anything can beat him, he’s in the Frankel era at the minute and we should sit back, watch and enjoy because he’s very special. He’s such an easy ride, a good jumper, and just ticks every box.

Marine Nationale A Horse To Watch In 2023/24

I’m looking forward to seeing Marine Nationale come back on whichever road he goes down as I feel he’s not getting the credit he deserves. He’s a two-time Grade One winner and has done it on the big stage despite being lightly raced.

I’m interested to see if he does go chasing because he could be pretty special, there’s something about him and he could be even better next season. Barry Connell isn’t afraid to take on the biggest horse and doesn’t run away from anyone. He has a great team around him and they’ll do what they feel best whichever road they think he’ll go down.

If his schooling session doesn’t go well at the start of the year then he might stay over hurdles and we might have a clash with Constitution Hill, but he is scaring a few of them away right now.

There’s also State Man, who would be a Champion Hurdle winner but he’s run into Constitution Hill at the wrong time of his career.

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