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Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Don Cossack has been retired.
Owned by Gigginstown House Stud, Don Cossack was a brilliant winner of the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup last March but he has not run since after being suffering a tendon injury ahead of the Punchestown Festival.
Connections had repeatedly warned that he would be retired if he suffered a setback but ge returned to full training at Gordon Elliott's yard and was being prepared to make his comeback in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park on February 18.
However, he will not run again after he was found to suffered a recurrence of the tendon injury.
"I am very sad to report that Don Cossack has suffered a setback and will now be retired," Elliott wrote in his Betfair Blog.
"We found that he had a bit of heat in his leg on Monday and we've made the decision to call time.
"It's a real sickener for Gigginstown, myself, Bryan Cooper and the whole yard. We knew it was never certain we would get him back to the racecourse and even after that, to get him back to his best, but we were hopeful and he was on track for a run at Gowran Park next month.
"He's a horse of a lifetime and he owes us nothing. I said all season that if he had any sort of setback at all we would not abuse him and we'd retire him straight away.
"He won Grade 1s at Cheltenham, Aintree, Punchestown, Fairyhouse and Down Royal. He was the top-rated horse in Britain and Ireland for the last two seasons running and we'd have loved to see him take on Thistlecrack in the Gold Cup. It would have been a cracking race. But that's racing, as they say, and we have to let that go now and find something else to take on Thistlecrack.
"It was one of the highlights of my career when Don Cossack won the Gold Cup for us last year and he retires a champion.
"As I said already, he owes us absolutely nothing and a peaceful retirement awaits him out in Gigginstown."
After just four races over hurdles, Don Cossack made the switch to chasing at the start of the 2013-14 season, winning his first start over the larger obstacles before following up in the Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse, only to fall when well positined in the RSA Chase.
He returned to Cheltenham the following year on the back of a four wins but he could only finish third to Uxizandre in the Ryanair Chase.
The son of Sholokhov went on to win six of his next seven starts, including the Punchestown Gold Cup and the JNwine.com Champion Chase, before he justified favouritism to beat Djakadam by four-and-a-half lengths in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
A statement from Gigginstown House Stud owner Michael O'Leary added: “Anita, Eddie and I would like to sincerely thank Gordon, Karen, Louise and all the team at Cullentra House for the outstanding job they did in managing Don Cossack’s career, to ultimately win the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
"Gordon left no stone unturned to help Don Cossack return to defend his title but alas it is not to be. At the age of 10 we are all agreed that the best thing for “the Don” is a well-earned and very well pampered retirement in Gigginstown.”
News of Don Cossack's retirement comes just days after Sara Bradstock revealed that 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree is unlikely to run in the blue riband on March 17.
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