Cooper handed Gigginstown role
Rising star Bryan Cooper has described it as a "great honour" to be formally appointed as retained rider for leading Irish owners and breeders Gigginstown House Stud.
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The 21-year-old has long been talked of as a potential champion jockey of the future and enjoyed a breakthrough season last term, highlighted by a magnificent Cheltenham Festival treble featuring Triumph Hurdle glory aboard Our Conor.
Gigginstown's admiration was clear as he rode the Mouse Morris-trained First Lieutenant on a number of occasions, including a keynote victory in the Betfred Bowl at Aintree's Grand National meeting.
He has continued to ride a number of horses for the team this season, landing the JNwine.com Champion Chase aboard Gordon Elliott's Roi Du Mee and when it became apparent on New Year's Eve then-retained rider and champion jockey Davy Russell was to lose the Gigginstown number one role, Cooper emerged as the hot favourite to take over.
Gigginstown manager Eddie O'Leary, brother of the stud's owner and Ryanair supremo Michael O'Leary, confirmed the appointment on Friday afternoon, and Cooper was understandably thrilled.
Cooper said: "It's a great honour to have been asked. I've had a good bit of success for the team over the last two or three years and it's great to get the call-up.
"It's a great team, with a great team of horses. Hopefully we can get off to a good start and keep the ball rolling.
"I could sit here all day going through all the good horses I'm looking forward to riding. I'm just looking forward to getting started and am very honoured."
Cooper has sympathy for Russell, with no doubt another big job is just around the corner.
He said: "That's the game we're in. Davy is a great man and a great rider and I'm sure he'll bounce back. I'm sure someone will be snapping him up very quickly."
The young rider also confirmed his intention to continue to ride for long-term boss Dessie Hughes, who trains a number of horses for Gigginstown.
Cooper said: "I'll continue to ride out for Dessie and I'll ride for him as much as I can.
"He has been very good to me for the last four years and I wouldn't be in this position if it wasn't for him. I owe him a lot."
There has been speculation that Ruby Walsh may now have first pick on the Gigginstown-owned horses in the care of champion trainer Willie Mullins, but Eddie O'Leary said: "That is not the case. Bryan will be the number one retainer for all our horses."
O'Leary also revealed Russell would continue to ride for Gigginstown.
"Davy will continue to ride plenty for us. There has been no falling out of any kind," he said.
Hughes admits he will be sad to lose Cooper as stable jockey, but has no plans to appoint a replacement.
He said: "It's a big blow to us as he's a nice rider and it's taken four years to make him, but he's not gone completely.
"He'll continue to ride out for us and ride for us when he's available, but obviously Gigginstown will have first call on him now.
"We'll just work around him."