Down Royal winner Don Cossack tops list

Don Cossack pictured winning at last year's Down Royal Festival
Don Cossack pictured winning at last year's Down Royal Festival

Don Cossack was last week announced as the highest rated Jumps horse of the 2014/15 season at the Anglo-Irish Jump Classifications by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and the Irish Turf Club.

The Gordon Elliot-trained Chaser achieved a rating of 175 in two categories, both the three-mile-plus Chasing division and the two-and-a-half-mile Chasing division.

This resulted in Don Cossack being named Classification Champion in both categories.

His rating of 175 puts him level with the likes of Best Mate and Kicking King in the pantheon of great chasers since the commencement of the classifications, and marginally ahead of See More Business and last year’s Classifications Champion Silviniaco Conti, who both achieved a rating of 174.

However, despite this impressive achievement, 2014/15 may be better remembered for the exploits of the Novice Chasing division, where the previous record rating was smashed not once but twice in the space of two days at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Willie Mullins trained Vautour received a mark of 171 in the two-and-a-half-mile Novice Chase division, surpassing the previous record rating for a Novice Chaser since the Classifications began in the form of the 169 achieved by Sprinter Sacre in the two-mile division in 2011/12.

Coneygree became the first Novice to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup for 41 years, and in doing so earned a rating of 172, making him Champion three-mile-plus Novice Chaser and surpassing Vautour’s new and short-lived record.

These were not the only impressive Novice Chase performances however, as earlier in a memorable Cheltenham Festival a further Willie Mullins-trained Chaser had earned a mark which would see him top a Novice Chasing division, this time in the two-mile Chasing category.

Un De Sceaux’s scintillating Arkle success earned him a rating of 168, only 1lb behind Sprinter Sacre’s old record, making him at that time the second-highest rated Novice Chaser of all time, until the exploits of Vautour and Congaree knocked him down that pecking order.

Dodging Bullets completes the list of Chasing Classification Champions, his rating of 171 being earned in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

A further Mullins-trained superstar in the form of Faugheen comfortably topped the Hurdle Classifications with the 174 rating he achieved via his eight-length destruction of the 2-mile Hurdle Classification runner-up Arctic Fire (169) in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle.

His mark of 174 puts him behind only Istabraq (176) and Hurricane Fly (175) since the introduction of the classifications, but there may yet be more to come from the 11-time winner considering he is only seven years of age and as yet unbeaten.

There were yet more impressive Novice performances in the Hurdling category with yet another Mullins-trained and Rich Ricci owned star Douvan topping the two-mile division with a rating of 161.

This is the joint-highest mark for a two-mile Novice Hurdler since the Classifications began, an honour he shares with none other than Faugheen – as well as Jezki and Our Conor – in what is surely a golden age for Novice Hurdlers coming out of Ireland, and in particular the Mullins yard.

The two-and-a-half-mile-plus Novice Hurdlers were also topped by a Mullins-trained star in the form of Nichols Canyon whose seven-length success in the Champion Novices Hurdle at Punchestown earned him a mark of 155.

The Irish domination of the Hurdling division was completed by Jezki who earned a mark for 169 for his successful switch up in trip as he overcame old rival Hurricane Fly in the three-mile World Series Hurdle at Punchestown.

Noel O’Brien, Senior Turf Club National Hunt Handicapper, commented: “2014/15 was an exciting year with huge performances from the Novices in particular. I don’t remember a time when the likes of Coneygree, Vautour, Un des Sceaux and Don Poli all raced in the same season and there are exciting times ahead from all of these horses.

“Over hurdles, the hugely progressive Faugheen claimed his first Champion Hurdle and confirmed his class with an emphatic win at Punchestown – it is ironic that his biggest challengers next year could be in his own stable.”