Our Conor ridden by Bryan Cooper Gold Cup Day of the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival.

Exclusive interview with Bryan Cooper

“Gigginstown fallout left me at rock bottom, I hated riding and felt I was finished,  I struggled at times to handle Ryanair and Gigginstown boss Michael O’Leary, causing havoc in a Cheltenham bar after winning the Gold Cup and young jockeys these days don’t put in the graft”

Speaking exclusively to DAZN Bet, former Cheltenham Gold Cup winning jockey Bryan Cooper has revealed how he celebrated the biggest win of his career in 2016 at the Festival, what it was like working for one of Ireland’s richest men in Ryanair supremo Michael O’Leary and how his career suffered after leaving the biggest job in the sport, plus his future plans and having no regrets over his surprise retirement aged 30 back in March of this year.

Bryan Cooper on His Early Passion for Racing

DZBT: Tell us how you got started in racing – were you always destined to be a jockey?

BRYAN COOPER: Basically, I wanted to be a jockey for as long as I can remember. From when I was really young, I was out in the yard and I sat on the back of the couch, pretending I was riding a horse in races and it was everything that I wanted to do.

I was going racing from a very young age and I got the bug very early. It was a big help to me having the yard here and everything fell into place that way.

I was riding out at home a lot and did a lot of showjumping instead of pony racing. When I got my licence, I did a year of pony racing and rode a couple of winners and got some experience that way.

Then I used to go up to [trainer] Dessie Hughes’ yard in my school holidays so I was in there as well. I went there first when I was 14 so I had a bit of a headstart there for getting into the industry.

I hate to think what I’d be doing now if I wasn’t in the horses – school was never the thing for me at all. I didn’t enjoy it one bit. There was only one path I wanted to go down and that was horse racing. I think my teachers hated me, trying to keep me entertained in school. They were happy to see the back of me when I left at 16.

I was meant to go straight to Dessie’s yard but he actually sent me to [trainer] Kevin Prendergast’s yard at the Curragh for a year to get some experience on the Flat because I was quite light at the time.

I got my licence two months after leaving school when I turned 16 and then my first ride was two weeks after that. I did a year on the Flat, had one winner, but things happen too quickly for me on there and I went back to Dessie’s the following year to be a jumps jockey.

I wasn’t good at all on the Flat but my second ride over jumps was a winner and I suppose it was all the schooling I had from a young age, jumping really was the thing for me and I probably felt more natural riding over jumps than the flat. Horses used to jump really well for me – even though I had a lot of falls and injuries – that was part and parcel of it but I already had the experience about me.

I found it all very easy. Dessie saw something in me when I started because from the moment i started riding for him, I was riding a lot for him. I fell into the job within a year there so he saw something in me. He was a great tutor of young jockeys.

I served my apprenticeship with Kevin Prendergast at the Curragh and left after my year there. I was mucking out in the morning and then brushing over in the evening. I think the young jockeys now aren’t going down that route. They are in to ride work and then ride out, they aren’t there to put in the graft anymore.

I’ll never forget my first day at the yard. I was 14, maybe 15, Dad dropped me off there in the evening and Dessie immediately saw me and said “come on” and we were out the back in the fields picking stones. I was like right, this isn’t what I thought I was going to be doing at all but it was a really good grounding and eye-opener for the future.

It stood to me an awful lot going forward how to respect people I worked with and knowing that nothing is handed to you on a plate – you have to work for it.

DZBT: Is that the case with the new crop coming through – they don’t put the graft in? 

BRYAN COOPER: I don’t see that in many racing yards anymore. A lot of the younger generation – it is different as racing is different these days and has changed, bigger yards are dominant so jockeys are just trying to get in with as many yards as possible – but at that time you had the big yards with 50 60, 70 horses and were still training 30 or 40 winners a year, you didn’t have to go to the top two yards.

If I was a trainer and I had an apprentice then I would have them learning the ropes before diving in, it helps you out further out down the line.

Bryan Cooper on Winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup

Bryan Cooper landed the plum job in the world of horse racing when he replaced Davy Russell as retained jockey for the Gigginstown Stud – led by Ryanair supremo Michael O’Leary

DZBT: You rode your first winner at 16 – how did you deal with success at such a young age?

BRYAN COOPER: I rode my first winner at 16 and how I dealt with the success goes again back to the grounding I had at Dessie’s yard. He always kept me on my feet, I got more bollockings than I had winners. I remember after my first win, in his little courtyard and the stables, I was cleaning out the stables that morning which he did to make sure I was in on time number one, as he would always check if I was there at 7am in the morning, and if I had done something wrong racing the day before then he could make a beeline for me early in the morning to remind me of my mistakes.

I look back now and say to myself that I was blessed to have a boss like him. There’s photos of me and him everywhere at my house. He wasn’t like a boss, he was like a second father to me, I was like a child to him. I felt a part of their family, he’d always pick up the phone to my dad but they just kept me on the ground. He saw a talent in me and wanted me to have the best guidance possible in my career. I wouldn’t have got any of the jobs I had in my career if it wasn’t for him.

I do think I would have held onto the Gigginstown job longer if he didn’t pass away. I only had about eight or nine months there before he died and that was the whole initial plan, that I was still to be a part of his team and mentor me along as well as having the Gigginstown job.

When he passed away, I was left a bit out in the open and on my own. I was only 20 years of age at the time, I had some great days but they [Gigginstown] were really tough people to work for. You were dealing with the biggest trainers in Ireland – Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott, Noel Meade – and the first person to blame in any situation was the jockey, never the trainer or the owner.

I suppose I found Eddie and Michael [O’Leary, Ryanair boss] quite tough and hard. Now, they are fantastic people and I was so grateful for the job they gave me but I do feel Dessie would have helped me deal with situations better at the time, when I was on my own.

DZBT: Was it a case of perhaps a bit too much too soon for you?

BRYAN COOPER: With my ability, it certainly wasn’t a too big a job too soon kind of thing, I was still delivering for them regularly on the big days but I just needed someone to help me deal with them as well. I was a young man and suddenly thrown into a meeting with one of the richest men in Ireland in his head office.

I look back and maybe I could have reacted to things a bit differently and made a few silly decisions along the way. I was young and it was a very big job for a 21-year-old at the time.

When I was having a lot of injuries towards the end of my career with Gigginstown I struggled to handle situations with the O’Leary’s, I should have dealt with them better.

They expect the best every day and that’s what every owner and if you’re employed should be doping. We never held any grudges and if Michael had something to say then he would say it but I could pick the phone up to him tomorrow morning and we’d be absolutely fine.

It was a very high-pressured job but it was one that I was very lucky to have. They liked their horses ridden certain ways and that was it, they were paying the bills so you had to do it their way.

DZBT: Did you ever try to kick back at them?

BRYAN COOPER: There were certain times I did. In 2017 I was riding well on the big days but then there were other days, summer time maybe, I didn’t give my all and then got known a bit for only wanting to ride the big rides and good horses, that was something that was going around. Maybe that was true, I didn’t enjoy riding summer racing, my body had taken a fair brunt over four years and it was starting to have an effect so they could clearly see that I wasn’t delivering to their standards, I suppose. That’s probably why we went our separate ways.

I more or less thought of the bigger days and keeping myself right for them and it was probably, at that time, they had so many horses that you simply couldn’t do that. You couldn’t ride just one, you had to ride them all, they had 140 horses or more at the time. You could just say “I’m going to ride the grade 1 horse” and nothing else, that doesn’t work and that didn’t sit well with me either.

I wanted to give my body a chance, I had a lot of injuries. I loved the big days and the success of having the big days.

Working with Gigginstown and the O’Learys

DZBT: Tell us how it came to pass that you were offered arguably the biggest job in horse racing with Gigginstown?

BRYAN COOPER: I had ridden for them a few times before as a second jockey as such and then Davy [Russell, jockey] got fired by them at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve, and Dessie said to me that I had been called out of the weighing room and to go to the O’Leary’s house straight away after racing that day as we needed to talk.

There was clearly something said to Dessie that day and they said that even though I was probably going to get the job, Michael O’Leary was going to ring me within the next couple of days, he wasn’t just going to do it the next day as Davy had just got sacked.

I really didn’t know what to do. Dessie went through the guidance, we drew up a contract for money and all the agreements so he helped me with that and I got a call a couple of days later from Michael, who invited me up to his head office at Ryanair and we went through bits and pieces and I said what I wanted.

He didn’t say I had it then but he called me the following evening and said that the job was mine and we would drive on. It was a proper contract signed, things in there that he expected from me and what I wanted as well, and that was it. I was very lucky to have that for four and a half years.

DZBT: What were your emotions when you signed the contract?

BRYAN COOPER: I honestly felt like “this is it, I’ve done it.” To get a job like that at such a young age, it was the biggest job in Ireland. They were as big, if not bigger, than Willie Mulins at that time in terms of winners. If you were riding for them, you’d be champion jockey.

It was a real shame for me that the only time I ever had a relatively injury free season and to have a proper go at that title, I was only beaten by three or four winners by Ruby Walsh, we went hammer and tongs. I gave it everything I could, I just wasn’t far enough ahead. That’s the only thing I felt like I didn’t get to do – be a champion jockey.

I can only say there was one year in my career where I had a proper go at it. But that showed how big they were – one job could give you a massive chance of being a champion jockey.

It was the biggest job in the whole sport – in both Ireland and England. The jobs you wanted were for Wille Mullins, Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and Gigginstown – they were the top four you wanted and if you wanted to be at the highest level.

Dessie had 60 or 70 horses at the time when I was with him but it was a no-brainer with Gigginstown – I simply had to take this job. I went with his blessing, I was still part of his team and when I wasn’t with other trainers, I was at Dessie’s when I wasn’t with other trainers but Gigginstown were just getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

DZBT: Gordon Elliott was one of the biggest trainers with Gigginstown and is a powerhouse in the sport today – what was he like to work with?

BRYAN COOPER: He was very determined and driven. What he is doing now is incredible, I can see his willpower to win and become champion trainer, his determination, it’s incredible. The thrill he gets winning the big races, you see it in his face and it is all down to the work at home and the team he has built around him, it is phenomenal.

That is something he has built from scratch and had happened in a short space of time compared to other trainers. He was a great man to ride for, his horses were always incredibly well schooled and he didn’t tie you down to structures too much. Though he would let you know when you did wrong and is not afraid to let you know on the track that day either. That’s Gordon, he does get a little bit hot-headed but a great guider as well. He brings on young jockeys now, like Jack Kennedy, Jordan Gainford, Sam Ewing, Danny Gilligan – all these young lads.

I listened to something he said that Sir Alex Ferguson had commented on that you need good young lads in your yard and that’s what he is doing, just like Sir Alex Ferguson did at Manchester United, he had those young lads in the Class Of 92 and then he guided them throughout their careers and I think that is what Gordon is doing now.

DZBT: What is he like away from the track?

BRYAN COOPER: Brilliant, you can go for a pint with him and he is great craic. He’s only 40 as well. I always remember with him that if we had a big winner over the weekend, like a Grade 1, then they would have a do for the staff on the Monday evening, they’d go to the pub after a half day and have a few drinks in the evening with a free bar. He looks after the staff really well, I was very lucky to be a part of that team for a while and it is fantastic to see him doing well.

I didn’t think he had the firepower this year but he is putting it up to Willie Mullins a lot more than I expected him to. I knew he had bought a lot of horses but they were young horses.

DZBT: He’s getting closer and closer to Wille Mullins now – Irish racing seems a lot more competitive this year?

BRYAN COOPER: This season for sure, yes. He’s taken off running and he and Jack Kennedy are having doubles and trebles every day of the week over here at the moment. I’ll be interested to see if it carries on because sometimes it peters out around the end of Cheltenham and Willie then goes into domination mode.

I think Christmas will be crucial, Gordon is probably having a little more success than Willie at the moment and there will be some great battles over the Christmas period.

DZBT: We can’t not talk about Gigginstown, Gordon Elliott and yourself without speaking about the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup win on Don Cossack – what was that like?

BRYAN COOPER: It was the biggest racing day of my career. It was the race I always go back to when I was a chap, sitting on the top of the couch or a rocking horse pretending to be a jockey and riding to a finish. I’d picture myself winning a Gold Cup. It was a race I always wanted to win.

There was a lot of pressure going into that week, lots of talk about me deciding which horse I would be riding, whether it would be don Cossack or Don Poli, people were saying I didn’t have a good relationship with Don Cossack after we fell in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day, we didn’t have luck in-running in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham the year before, so there were critics picking holes as such.

I was content with my decision that Don Cossack was the best horse in the race and I rode him like the best horse in the race – there was nothing that would have gotten near him that day, no matter what people say about Cue Card.

I know that doesn’t and won’t sit well with quite a few people but I know that he was not going to win that day against me and Don Cossack, you just know these things as a jockey.

It was an incredible day. It was what Gigginstown employed me to do to a certain degree. They were buying these six-figure horses to be Gold Cup horses, Michael [O’Leary] made that very clear when he interviewed me that he was buying Gold Cup horses. It took him ten years to do it so to do that for them was incredible, it was the biggest day of my racing career, certainly the biggest race I won without a doubt.

DZBT: You must have celebrated that win quite hard afterwards.

BRYAN COOPER: We ended up in the 21 Club in the town there, we caused havoc in there that night. I was on top of someone’s shoulders and there was champagne being sprayed everywhere. I didn’t think I drank that much as I could barely get near the bar, I just had so much craic but it was utter mayhem in there. You cherish those moments forever.

I definitely celebrated big winning days, you have to. I like to go for a nice dinner if I was off for a few days, that’s how I often celebrated.

DZBT: Speaking of the Festival – it is the pinnacle and we put a lot of attention on it – too much or is it deserved?

BRYAN COOPER: It is deserved – it is the Olympics of our sport. Maybe there is a bit too much hype when you have the King George meeting, Leopardstown at Christmas, Dublin Racing Festival in February, all coming beforehand but it is the best week in the year.

I was very lucky to have nine winners there, it was a very lucky place for me aside from when I got injured there a couple of times. You’re known when you ride winners at Cheltenham, people will come up to you and congratulate you and maybe that doesn’t happen if you win at other tracks at smaller meetings.

I am just glad to see the Irish are so dominant at Cheltenham.

DZBT: What is it like being a jockey during Cheltenham Festival week?

BRYAN COOPER: We don’t really do much during Cheltenham week as it is actually quite draining. It is very different from our normal race week as we have to get up early and exercise our horses on the gallops, so you’re over there from Monday doing that.

You’re at the track at half 7 in the morning, you ride out maybe two lots, then you go back to the house and probably have a sponsor’s blog or something you need to write beforehand and then you’re on your way to the track.

You like to get to the track two hours before the first race. It is very hectic and then you never really go into town to find somewhere quiet for a bit of dinner or something.

Us Irish guys used to just rent a house, three or four of us, I used to stay with Robbie Power a lot for example, it was a good thing we had going there. I used to just go back and try to relax, zone out, the town is crazy and the last thing you want is to be surrounded by all those people asking you for tips.

DZBT: It is a bit of a grind for the winter jockeys every year – unlike some of the more glamorous lifestyles Flat jockeys lead?

BRYAN COOPER: Royal Ascot is a bit like that for them but it is a bit more glamorous there than it is at Cheltenham! It’s usually raining ast Cheltenham, it’s certainly not the sun of California or Dubai, it was a real grind but it was a place I used to love riding winners more than anywhere else.

DZBT: What is the winners’ enclosure like at Cheltenham?

BRYAN COOPER: It’s different from any other race track in the world. Coming down in front of the stands on the chute is incredible and that feeling when you turn the bend before the parade ring, it is spine-tingling. It gets better every time and I remember each one. The Gold Cup was amazing – it was very hard to explain.

DZBT: Michael said to you that the Gold Cup was the target when he employed you?

BRYAN COOPER: That’s what he told me. It wasn’t always about buying the horse and expecting them to deliver right there and then, it was about guiding them down a path and if you watch how the prepped their horses, there was always a similar path over novice hurdles but they are always big three-mile chasing horses, ready to be a Gold Cup horse at some point and I think that’s why we are seeing them spending big again at the sales and their colours are becoming a lot more prominent once again.

DZBT: Obviously it all came to an end and quite publicly too – do you regret how it ended?

BRYAN COOPER: It wasn’t by choice – Michael had decided he wanted to let me go and I did think I might have held onto the job for at least another season. I did have a lot of injuries that season and missed a lot of racing but I still delivered at Leopardstown, had two winners at Cheltenham, five at Punchestown Festival including four Grade 1’s, so we ended the year on a good note.

I didn’t get let go until August but it came as a shock. I was only chipping away during the summer and I said I was always going to do that because my body had been battered – I had broken my arm, pelvis, lacerated my liver and punctured my lung in that winter and I wanted to give my body the summer to recuperate as such and then said after the Galway Festival, I’d give it a right go. But I got sacked the week before Galway.

They said they weren’t going to retain anyone after that and they didn’t. I was still riding some horses for them, just before Rachael Blackmore really burst on the scene.

DZBT: How did the career path track after Gigginstown?

BRYAN COOPER: I got a phone call from Alan Potts [trainer], randomly. He asked me if I wanted to ride all his horses in the UK, he didn’t have a lot but he had some very good horses that previous year, good Grade 1 horses and he offered me a retainer jockey job, and I took it.

In hindsight, that probably backfired. He unfortunately passed away a couple of months after that. I thought I could do both, compete in Ireland and fly over England back for him, but I just couldn’t.

I lost a lot of contacts in Ireland as a result because things had changed, I got a name for just wanting to ride good horses and Irish trainers thought “Ah we’ll just leave him over in England.”

The Tizzard yard, Joe and Colin, always wanted [jockey] Robbie Power and you could understand why, and Alan also wanted him in Ireland and me in the UK. I knew when Alan passed away that I wasn’t going to have a job much longer and I didn’t. There were no hard feelings but I had to come back to Ireland and start grafting again.

DZBT: Did you find that hard starting back at the bottom and having to effectively start your career over again?

BRYAN COOPER: It was hard to get back going again and get the trust back from the trainers in Ireland, show them I was still able to do it and still wanted it. It was a tough year and a half, I took on a lot of work – a lot of hard work.

When you retire people always ask you if you have any regrets and sure, you always have some regrets but I was more proud that I got back to a competitive level.

I’ll be honest, I was absolutely finished in 2018. No-one wanted to use me as a jockey, I couldn’t get any good rides, but I built myself back up. Before I retired, I was the go-to rider again for the big race spares if there were any, I didn’t have a job as such, I rode a lot for Noel Meade, Willie Mullins.

I was the go-to for the bigger days and I got back to where I wanted to be. That was good enough for me because I knew I was never going to have a chance of being a champion jockey again.

DZBT: Just how tough was that year and a half you mentioned?

BRYAN COOPER: It was rock bottom, yes. I was finished, I went to Australia for six or eight weeks, went travelling to try and figure out what I was going to do as I didn’t want to be a jockey any more. I never came out and said that, but in my head I wasn’t going to come back to racing. I would come back to Ireland, but not race.

I was then at home for a few weeks and got asked to ride a mare at Gowran Park one day and we won, then I got another race win with Latest Exhibition for the Nolan’s but I thought I would chip away until the end of that season and finish then.

But I got some more rides for Willie Mullins on the bigger days, and started to enjoy it a lot more. The previous year and a half I hated it, absolutely hated going racing, I didn’t want to work or enjoyed riding moderate horses.

But I got a smile back on my face in January 2020 onwards until I retired. I enjoyed competing again at the highest level, obviously I had the injury worries in the back of my head throughout that time but I was proud to get back to the highest level – the hard work paid off.

Bryan Cooper’s Retirement and Future Plans

Cooper sprung a shock to the racing world when he announced his retirement aged just 30 in March of this year having ridden nine Cheltenham Festival winners

DZBT: Do you stand by your retirement decision?

BRYAN COOPER: Very much so. There has been days this Winter where I knew it might come at me a bit because I retired just before the summer as such, so maybe I didn’t miss much racing, but I have been going racing a fair bit since I retired and there has been a couple of days where I wondered if I did the right thing.

But then I think back to what I was mentally going through at the time and I didn’t want to put myself in that position again. I said to myself I couldn’t physically do that any more, that triggers me, the thought from declaration morning to getting back home from racing, that bit of negativity I had in my head, I remind myself of that which makes me realise I made the right call.

There’s no regrets. I shocked a lot of people but I got so much support.

DZBT: Was it a relief in a way?

BRYAN COOPER: It was a weight lifted off my shoulders, for sure. I have never had such a clearer mind and head space than I have had since March, I am a happier person, way more content. I am probably having to work a lot harder than I have in my entire life now because I am out in the real world now. I was a jockey for 15 years and it was something that I loved, whereas now I am still only 31 and I’m working away at the sales, a bit of media work, I’m really enjoying it all.

DZBT: What’s next for Bryan Cooper –  a Ruby Walsh-style pundit?

BRYAN COOPER: I’d like to get into that a bit more, yes but it is not the kind of job that you just walk into, you need to prove your punditry and knowledge of racing. I am chipping away at it, taking every chance I can. When I retired, I was told to not say no to anything but also not dive in head first to anything with a rush, that’s what I am doing.

I love the punditry side of things, going to the sales, buying young horses, they take a bit of looking after so it is a different way of life but I am delighted to be involved in the industry still.

 

Cooper has been impressed with his former boss Gordon Elliott’s start to the new season in Ireland

DZBT: Your thoughts on the jumps season so far in both Britain and Ireland?

BRYAN COOPER: It’s been a great watch so far and with the resurgence of Gordon Elliott’s yard and him really putting it up to Willie Mullins so far this season, the big one was Teahupoo winning at Fairyhouse for him, that was big.

He’s winning a lot of bumper races so the stock he has bought is coming good already. I am really looking forward to Leopardstown now because there will be some massive battles between the two of them.

There’s the Paddy Power Chase that Gordon absolutely loves tackling, the Future Champions as well where he has Down Memory Lane, a horse that looks very promising, but the one i have been impressed with most so far comes from Willie’s yard – Daddy Long Legs, who bolted up at Thurles. He was very, very good and looking forward to seeing him at Leopardstown and taking on maybe firefox of Gordon’s. I think that is the race to look out for and the big clash of the week, they are all Supreme Novice horses at Cheltenham.

DZBT: In terms of Cheltenham preparation – Leopardstown is crucial for the Irish, is that fair to say?

BRYAN COOPER: It’s the biggest one – it sets all the Cheltenham horses up and for where they are going to be for the remainder of the season.

There is the King George as well, which looks like it is going to be an incredible race, especially if Allaho shows up for Willie. I’d love to ride him in a King George, he’s absolutely tailor made for it. He has shown he stays that trip having won the Punchestown Gold Cup a couple of years ago, I was third on Al Boum Photo that day but Allaho galloped us into the ground, he was flat out to the boards that day, if ever there was a question about his stamina then that dismissed it.

The King George is perfect for him. You need a horse that has pace but stays, he ticks all the boxes. Let’s hope he still retains the ability, he is a bit older, but there are question marks over the others. Bravemansgame has a lot of them to answer, L’Homme Presse we’re not sure if he will turn up, he unseated at the last in last year’s race and wasn’t going to be beaten far at all, probably wouldn’t have won

It’ll be interesting to see if Gerri Colombe heads over for Gordon. I know he stays very well but I just think things will happen too quickly for him in a King George. He reminds me of Don Cossack, he’s very idle and does his best work late and that’s what got me in trouble with Don Cossack in the King George, I lost my position going away from the stands on the second circuit as I couldn’t hold my position.

Things happen really quick there, those four down the back straight are just bang bang bang, I would rather be riding him at Leopardstown in the Savills Chase if it were me.

It’s great action over Christmas. I’m interested to see if State Man turns up at Leopardstown, he went well in the Morgiana, it’s an open division and he’s one of the best we have in Ireland.

 

The King George at Kempton and Leopardstown Christmas Festival are two major meetings over the Festive period in horse racing – with all roads leading to Cheltenham afterwards

DZBT: Who wins the King George? And anything at Leopardstown?

BRYAN COOPER: Allaho. He is forward going, his style of racing suits, I would imagine Paul Townend would go over and ride him as there’s no reason for him to stay at Leopardstown. There are question marks over Bravemansgame, we don’t know if Gerri Colombe will go over, so I think he will gallop them into the ground.

The novice hurdle at Leopardstown i am looking forward to with Down Memory lane, Firefox and Daddy Long Legs – they are three very top novices.

DZBT: Did you enjoy riding over here? Is there any real marked difference between riding in Ireland and England?

BRYAN COOPER: It is a lot easier riding in England, that’s for sure. They space out more and there are less runners, we ride a lot tighter rin Ireland. They go a bit quicker in England but they space out more, in Ireland we can be three wide tight to the rail so you have to be tactically very aware.

DZBT: You preferred it here than in Ireland?

BRYAN COOPER: My style of riding in England didn’t suit a lot of the trainers, they liked them ridden positively and forward whereas I liked to take my time and deliver them late but that didn’t sit well with many trainers in England, I learned that the hard way and very quickly.

In Ireland you can take your time a bit more. The fittest horse usually wins in England, whereas you can give a horse a good ride in Ireland and win it on just a good ride. I enjoyed going over and riding at Cheltenham in November and December because you learned a lot about those tracks at the time and it set you up for the Festival in March.