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26th Mar 2023

“Monday is a new day in my life, and I’m looking forward to it” – Cooper gives brave interview

Niall McIntyre

Injuries took their toll on Kerry jockey Bryan Cooper, who has announced his retirement from race-riding at the age of 30.

The Kerry native will be a huge loss to the weigh-room, jockeys as talented as he is are far-from ten-a-penny, but he leaves quite the legacy behind.

Son of renowned trainer Tom, Cooper was seen as a prodigious talent from a very young age.

He wasted no time in making his mark when, as a 20-year-old in 2013, he put his name in lights by riding three Cheltenham festival winners. Two of those, in Benefficient and Ted Veale, were for Meath trainer Tony Martin while the other, and one will he will forever be renowned for was for Dessie Hughes.

Cooper and the similarly precocious Our Conor were simply irresistible in that year’s triumph hurdle.

Cooper’s sensational form was soon rewarded as he was given the top job at Gigginstown House Stud, replacing Davy Russell in the role as their first choice rider.

As others such as Russell and Jack Kennedy more recently have found out, that title can however be quite the poisoned chalice.

It was in Cheltenham the following year when Cooper’s injury nightmare began.

A fall off Clarcam in the 2014 Fred Winter handicap hurdle led to a leg break that was described by the Turf Club’s chief medical officer as “the worst fracture I have ever seen in a lower limb”.

“It came through the skin, but there were multiple fragments, which is the nature of a fall at that speed. It’s very much like you see with motorcyclists who come off motorbikes at high speed,” said Dr Adrian McGoldrick at the time.

Cooper was recovered by the following year’s Cheltenham festival, when he won the RSA Chase aboard Don Poli. 2016 brought arguably his finest day in the saddle when he won the biggest prize of all, landing the Gold Cup with Gordon Elliott’s Don Cossack.

He also won on Empire of Dirt that year, before riding Apples Jade and Road to Respect to Cheltenham glory in 2017. It was later on in 2017 when he lost his role as Gigginstown’s number one but Cooper continued to pick up rides, and still rode some big winners – most notably for Paul Nolan.

In recent years, he wasn’t as prominent as he had been – the big rides weren’t as plentiful, while the injuries mounted. Cooper broke his arm and his pelvis, lacerated his kidney and punctured his lung.

He spoke on ITV racing on Saturday and in a brave interview with Malachy Clerkin in the Irish Times when, ultimately, he said that he had developed a fear of falling.

“Multiple injuries have taken their toll,” on ITV.

“It’s something I’ve been suffering with for a while and maybe I’ve been going out with that little bit of worry of getting injured again and it’s something that’s been playing in the back of my mind and I realise now that it’s time to go and do something else.

“I always wanted to go out on my terms so I’m happy to do that and I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”

Cooper says that he will continued to work in the bloodstock industry (buying and selling of horses) while being open to media opportunities as well. He says that next Monday will mark the beginning of a new chapter in his life – one he’s very much looking forward to.

“I’ve dipped my hand in the bloodstock industry for quite a while now so I’m hoping to get more involved in that.

“I’ve done a bit of media work and media training so hopefully someone maybe might approach me with a job but I’m looking forward to having to work at whatever I do next.

“As I said to one of my best friends, I’m unemployed now so I’m going to have to work hard and I suppose once the next few days are over, Monday is probably a new day in my life, and I’m looking forward to it.

“It’s been a pleasure, I’ve enjoyed the time here and I am, I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”

Cooper was also interviewed on Luck On Sunday, which you can watch here.


Bryan Cooper