Miracle horse Edwulf is a Gold-en great at Leopardstown

Sun 4 Feb 2018

Edwulf nearly died last March - and now he has won one of the biggest races in Irish National Hunt racing.

The nine-year-old went badly wrong in action at the Cheltenham Festival, having collapsed in the closing stages of the JT McNamara National Hunt Chase.

The final race on the card was delayed by 10 minutes as he was being treated and he was eventually moved off the course before being loaded into the horse ambulance.

His life, never mind his racing career, was in the balance.

Edwulf happily returned to full fitness, but his comeback run, when pulled up at big odds in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase, hardly suggested he would be a player in the Unibet Irish Gold Cup back at the same track.

But in what was a tremendous training performance, Joseph O'Brien somehow managed to coax him back to his best as he went on to land the Grade One by a neck in the hands of Derek O'Connor.

The young Melbourne Cup-winning handler said: "He's always been a great horse.

"It's a credit to everyone involved - the staff at home, the vets at Cheltenham last year and JP (McManus, owner) and Frank Berry (McManus' racing manager) who gave him all the time in the world.

"It's been a long road to get him back from where he was at Cheltenham when we thought he was gone.

"Derek is an unbelievable horseman. Horses just jump unbelievably well for him and he gets on great with this fella. We're over the moon.

"We'll see how he comes out of this first and we'll think about Cheltenham then.

"It's not too often you get a horse good enough to run in the Gold Cup so if he's well, I'd imagine he might go there."

There were plenty of thrills and spills during the race, with Killultagh Vic jumping the last in front only to sprawl on landing.

Anibale Fly also took a crashing fall, while Our Duke seemed to be back-pedalling when he made a mistake at the second-last. Valseur Lido never threatened, either.

Djakadam was prominent throughout but gave best on the run to the last where Outlander took over.

The Leopardstown specialist looked sure to add another Grade One to his collection but O'Connor had other ideas as 33-1 chance Edwulf got on top close home.

O'Connor said: "I'm exceptionally happy for the horse.

"He ran himself into the ground for me at Cheltenham and we thought his career was over but he's after coming back to his best."

Like O'Brien, Gordon Elliott is keen to run Outlander in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The County Meath handler said: "He ran his heart out and seems to like it here. We have to run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Where else would you go?"

Robbie Power said of Our Duke, who finished fourth: "I'm absolutely delighted with him.

"Down Royal was a non-event for him and realistically this was his first run of the season. He was very ring-rusty and he'll improve an awful lot from it."

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