Home We Are Laois Excitement building for Laois family as Our Duke gets set for Cheltenham

Excitement building for Laois family as Our Duke gets set for Cheltenham

The Cooper Family are hoping for success for Our Duke today
The Cooper Family are hoping for success for Our Duke today

Flights are being booked, accommodation is being arranged and the excitement is building for the Cooper family in Coolrain with the countdown to Cheltenham now fully underway after their horse Our Duke won in Gowran Park on Saturday.

Last year’s Grand National-winning horse Our Duke won the Redmills Chase in Gowran Park on Saturday, much to the relief of their owners after it had failed to feature amongst the winners on its two previous outings.

But an impressive win over favourite Presenting Percy on Saturday has seen its odds shorten to 9/1 for the prestigious Cheltenham Gold Cup.

After the race on Saturday, we met some of the Cooper family in the Castle Arms in Durrow as they celebrated their latest success.

But the excitement levels are set to go up a notch in the next couple of weeks as they prepare for Cheltenham and the ‘Blue Riband’ of national hunt racing.

“It’s all go at the minute – we’re all on different flights and coming back at different times and there’s going to be a huge crowd of us over there,” said Glenn Cooper, son of Sloan, one of the four Cooper family members who own the syndicate.

“We’ve been over there other years as spectators but it’ll be completely different this year now that we have a horse running in the Gold Cup.

“A few of us usually stay in a house near the racecourse but I reckon there will be a few extra in it this year,” he joked.

Glenn’s brother Joe is coming home from Australia for the race – and has no return flights confirmed yet, so as to be around for any celebrations should they win.

“Joe got up in the middle of the night on Saturday to watch the race in Gowran Park and he’s all plans now to come home for this.

“If we win, he won’t be going back to Australia in a hurry, he’ll be coming back to Coolrain for the party!”

Our Duke led for most of Saturday’s race and recovered well from a bad jump on the fourth last fence to see off the favourite.

Glenn admitted that his heart-rate went through the roof when Our Duke stumbled but all was well in the end as it came home at a price of 5/2.

The celebrations continued late into Saturday night in Sheeran’s in Coolrain and a huge number of locals are now planning on making the trip over.

“If they’re not in Cheltenham, they’ll be in Sheeran’s to watch the race,” added Glenn.

The syndicate that owns Our Duke is made up of Billy, Sloan and Nigel Cooper as well as their sister Hazel, who lives in America but has travelled over and back regularly for the races.

The horse is trained by Jessica Harrington and it remains to be seen whether jockey Robbie Power will partner Our Duke again in Cheltenham as Sizing John, last year’s winner and another Jessica Harrington horse, is also set to run in the Gold Cup.

Should Robbie Power opt for Sizing John then it’s likely that Noel Fehily will link up with Our Duke.

As it stands, the English horse Might Bite is the 9/2 favourite with Sizing John and Native River at 6/1 and Our Duke and the Michael O’Leary-owned Road to Respect at 9/1.

There is also another horse with Laois connections in the Gold Cup as 16/1 shot Total Recall is owned by the Slaneyville Syndicate of which Portlaoise-based priest Monsignor John Byrne is a member along with his brothers and sisters.



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LaoisToday's main photographer Julie Anne Miller is a graduate from GMIT. Despite her young age, Julie Anne has years of experience in the food industry. She has worked in Tynan's at the Storeyard in Portlaoise, Ballymaloe House in Cork and Beach Point Country Club in New York. She has also contributed a food column to the Irish Country Living section of the Irish Farmers Journal. She's willing to talk about anything - except football!