Bryan Cooper comes from behind to win during day one of the Dublin Racing Festival

Exclusive interview with Bryan Cooper

Speaking exclusively to DAZN Bet, former Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning jockey Bryan Cooper outlines the future of the Britain vs Ireland battle in racing, how Willie Mullins’ current dominance is a positive for the sport and celebrates Sir Alex Ferguson’s record investment in Cheltenham-contender Caldwell Potter.

We should applaud Willie Mullins’ dominance – in Galopin Des Champs he has the best horse since Kauto Star

DAZN Bet: What are your initial reflections on the Dublin Racing Festival – what does Willie Mullins’ dominance indicate for Cheltenham?

BRYAN COOPER: “It was nothing I didn’t expect – he had a lot of short-priced favourites and a few of them got turned over but I think it was great.

“I thought we shouldn’t let his dominance take away from the performances of the horses. We are lucky to see some incredible horses at the minute, with the likes of Galopin Des Champs, State Man and El Fabiolo.

“We should appreciate these and not just complain about the dominance from Willie. We should just enjoy the moment and we’re lucky to have these types of horses.”

Appreciating the Moment Amidst Dominance

In a sport where champions emerge through a blend of talent, strategy, and will, Bryan Cooper’s reflections on horse racing underscore a crucial narrative: the importance of appreciating greatness. Amidst discussions on dominance, particularly that of Willie Mullins, Cooper invites us to marvel at the exceptional horses gracing the tracks today.

DZBT: On the flip-side of much of the criticism, do you think Mullins’ dominance could be good for the sport?

BRYAN COOPER: “The horses that we’re seeing at the minute are incredible – these are horses that only really come around once in a lifetime. You also have Constitution Hill over in England and we should feel privileged to be able to see these horses compete every weekend.

“Just because they’re with the one trainer doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t enjoy them. He’s a big powerhouse and he’s got the money to buy these horses, but for him to get them to deliver every week is a credit to Willie.”

Embracing the Powerhouse: Mullins’ Influence on Horse Racing

Cooper’s admiration for the exceptional horses under Mullins’ care reflects a broader appreciation for the dedication and skill that define top-tier racing. His insights shed light on the dynamics of success within the sport, highlighting the blend of talent, investment, and strategic acumen that propels the best to the forefront.

DZBT: How has Mullins been able to make Galopin Des Champs a horse for the big occasion and how does his win against Fastorslow bode for Cheltenham?

BRYAN COOPER: “I think he definitely could potentially be the best horse we’ve seen since Kauto Star. Him and Fastorslow are two of the best chasers in training over that three-mile plus distance at the minute.

“I think Galopin Des Champs is definitely improving. He seems to be a very good horse around Leopardstown and they’re definitely riding him a lot more positively and using his stamina – he’s really coming into himself.”

Navigating the Debate on Capping Entries

The question of capping entries in horse racing, spurred by Willie Mullins’ dominance, ignites strong opinions within the community. By advocating against restrictions, Cooper champions the essence of horse racing as a showcase of the finest talent, where success is celebrated, not constrained.

DZBT: Many have been talking about the potential for a cap on entries following Mullins’ dominance at Cheltenham, how do you feel about that?

BRYAN COOPER: “Forgive my language, but it’s complete b******t, to be honest. I don’t see why one trainer should be capped on entries just because they’ve enjoyed success.

“What do they want, these horses not to run? These owners have paid big money for these horses to reach the big stage and if we’re going to put a cap on entries then it’s absolute nonsense.

“We complain that over in the UK there aren’t big enough fields to compete and that’s because there’s too much racing; whereas, in Ireland, we have our select weekends and we target those for our big racing.

“We target that one meeting – it’s a great way forward and if you try to put a cap on that then it’ll completely ruin the sport altogether.”

DZBT: How much of Mullins’ success is due to having built a family team around him, and do you think that legacy will continue to go on through the years?

BRYAN COOPER: “It’s just a great team. They have a great team around them with everyone from Willie, to Patrick (Mullins). David Casey and Ruby Walsh are highly involved there as well.

“It’s like any other sport like rugby, GAA or soccer where, yes, you have your manager, but then you have your team below you who are just as important.

“You can’t control everything, if Willie goes away, he can trust Patrick and David Casey. With everyone involved in the yard it’s a massive team effort and when you have a good team around you, you can have good success.”

The Impact of High-Profile Investments in Racing

The involvement of sports legends like Sir Alex Ferguson in horse racing brings a spotlight to the sport, blending the worlds of football and racing in a unique celebration of competitive spirit.

It’s great for the sport to see Sir Alex Ferguson investing in racing

DZBT: How does racing benefit from the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson’s continued involvement, such as his record deal to sign Caldwell Potter this week?

BRYAN COOPER: “You’re buying success, you’re buying a younger horse and it’s not as if he’s a Gold Cup winner; but he could potentially be a Championship horse.

“You’re buying a ready made horse and it’s great to see their involvement – I was there myself to try and buy one or two myself but got blown out of the water; but at the same time it’s great to see these people showing an interest in the industry.

“It was disappointing to see the horse leave Gordon (Elliott’s) and Anthony Bromley did make that point clear that he didn’t feel comfortable with it.

“But, when you have a team like the syndicate they’ve formed to put the money forward and Gordon’s loss is Paul Nicholls’ gain.

“He won’t be competing at the Cheltenham Festival, but he looks to be a very, very good horse going forwards and he’ll be a very good addition to the British racing scene.”

Championing Quality Over Quantity: The Dublin Racing Festival

The Dublin Racing Festival stands as a testament to Irish racing’s commitment to quality, setting a benchmark for excellence in the sport.

DRF is the best thing to ever come out of Irish racing

DZBT: The Dublin Racing Festival is very much quality over quantity in terms of big races – is that the way forward compared to four days at Cheltenham?

BRYAN COOPER: “I think that the Dublin Racing Festival is the best thing that has ever come out of Irish racing.

“Why more British horses don’t come over, I don’t know. I know that the Cheltenham Trials day fell the weekend beforehand, but the likes of Sophie Leach, who brought over Madara and won the Ryanair Handicap Chase show why it’s worth it.

“The prize money is unbelievable, it’s bigger than any of the big meetings in the UK. When you pay big money for championship horses, you expect to be running for good prize money and championship races.

“The crowds that were there over the weekend were incredible and, to me, it’s the best weekend in racing this side of Cheltenham.”

Expanding Horse Racing’s Audience Through Innovation

Racing needs to learn from F1 and rugby to get new fans involved

Exploring avenues for growth in horse racing, Bryan Cooper touches on the significance of adopting innovative strategies to captivate a wider audience.

DZBT: In terms of growth in racing, we’re seeing a lot of talk about reaching new audiences and particularly with growth coming from around the world – is that something the Brits can use to bring into the sport and redress the balance?

BRYAN COOPER: “I watched the Six Nations documentary on Netflix and I thought that was good.

“These are things that you need racing to probably step up a little bit more on and get more involved in for the broader public to get more involved.

“With the younger generation, I saw the other day that Horse Racing Ireland had a party on Thursday before the Dublin Racing Festival. It was basically set up to get the younger generation involved and they’re the ones you’re going to have to target.

“Whatever needs to be done, be it the Netflix documentary or other initiatives, these are all very important going forwards to get the younger public in.

“The people in their 50s and 60s who are retiring from their businesses aren’t going to be around forever, this is why anything you do to get the younger generation in is very important.”

DZBT: Do you worry about any potential risk of alienating current audiences by driving for growth?

BRYAN COOPER: “It’s a no-brainer – you can’t expect these people who are involved now to be around forever, they’re not. All these top end owners, they’re only going to be around for a certain period of time and we need a younger generation coming in.

“The younger generation are going to be where the money comes from in the future and you need them to get involved, so whatever British and Irish horse racing can do to get them involved then it’s all the better.”

DZBT: What lessons can be drawn from other sports in terms of how they’re marketed?

BRYAN COOPER: “It’s about giving the broader public an idea of what the sport is – I had never watched F1 until Drive to Survive. I’m a massive rugby fan and it was great to get the insights into the training and in-depth analysis of the games when watching the Six Nations documentary.

“It’s going to be the same if you bring one out for horse racing – it’s only going to be a positive for the sport, so anything they can do to be a positive is all good.”


Irish sport is in great shape with so many Irish sportspeople flying the flag

DZBT: You’ve mentioned rugby, do you think that Irish sport is in a particularly good place in the wake of the World Cup and other successes?

BRYAN COOPER: “I think we’ve always been very good at sport, we’re a big sporting country and our fans are incredible no matter where we go to travel.

“You can spot the fans everywhere you go and it’s great to see so many Irish sportspeople flying the flag and I’m very proud to be Irish.”

Irish Sport’s Global Influence and the Unwavering Spirit of Its Fans

The pride and passion of Irish sports, from horse racing to rugby, resonate on a global stage, exemplified by the achievements and spirit of its athletes and supporters. Whether it’s the World Cup or the Cheltenham Festival, the Irish presence is felt strongly, driven by a collective passion that transcends borders. This enduring support not only fuels athletes but also reinforces Ireland’s reputation as a powerhouse of talent and enthusiasm in the world of sports.

DZBT: Do you think that the Irish will ever stop travelling to Cheltenham even with the success of DRF?

BRYAN COOPER: “There’s no doubt about it, they’ll travel – we go anywhere to support our sports, so I can’t imagine any of the Irish won’t travel to Cheltenham.

“Barring any injuries, most of those horses will be there lining up at Cheltenham, so I can guarantee the Irish supporters will all be there and I’ll be there myself to support them all.”



Bryan Cooper’s last interview with DAZN Bet, from December 2023, can be found here: Bryan Cooper December 23