Farm Ireland

Monday 24 October 2016

How Rule The World defied all the odds

Getting Rule The World to the Aintree Grand National starting line was a triumph in itself for the horse's trainer and veterinary team

Siobhán English

Published 27/04/2016 | 02:30

David Duffy celebrates winning the Aintree Grand National on Rule The World.
David Duffy celebrates winning the Aintree Grand National on Rule The World.
Trainer Mouse Morris with Rule The World

Nursing a thoroughbred back from serious injury to win a Grand National was a remarkable achievement for the horse's trainer Mouse Morris.

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The success of Rule The World at Aintree proved once again that not every horse that suffers a pelvic injury will face retirement from the track, or worse still, premature death.

Immense patience is what proved to be the winning formula in bringing the nine-year-old back from the brink to win the world's toughest steeplechase under rookie David Mullins against all odds.

Purchased for €90,000 as a three-year-old of behalf of owners Gigginstown House Stud at the 2010 Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale, the UK-bred Rule The World showed much promise when winning on his point-to-point debut in November 2011.

That trend continued on the track with three wins under Davy Russell before disaster struck during the Grade 1 Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in April 2013.

"He was pulled up in that race and afterwards our vet Gerry Kelly examined him. He was then sent to Troytown where he was diagnosed in a scan with a fractured pelvis on his left side," Mouse Morris explained.

Mr Kelly outlined the prognosis: "The injury was in one of the better locations in terms of recovery and so to give him every chance the horse faced several weeks on box rest before being lightly walked and then brought back into light work."

A veterinary surgeon at the Fethard Equine Hospital in Co Tipperary, Mr Kelly has seen his fair share of horse injuries over the years and says that, while pelvic fractures in National Hunt horses are extremely common, many who are given due care go on to make full a recovery.

Ciaran Murphy had taken over the rehabilitation early on, while Mary Doyle was also instrumental in his recovery.

"We had broken him initially so we had a fair idea of his action," the Mullingar-based point-to-point rider said, adding that it was the first time he had worked on a horse with such an injury. "We knew he had been riding in a shape so we did a lot of slow lunging with him. The flatwork also really paid off with a lot of leg yielding and lateral movements. Also we found the use of weight boots on his hind legs helped immensely."

It would be six months before Rule The World returned to the track, this time in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Naas where he won by two-and-a-half lengths.

After that race Mr Morris had said: "We thought he was a goner (due to injury). It's just great to have him back. He looks a chaser in the making."

However, his hurdling campaign continued on into 2014 and at Cheltenham he finished sixth in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. As Mouse Morris and the horse's connections then made plans to send him chasing, disaster struck once again, this time at home at Everardsgrange outside Fethard. A scan had confirmed a second fractured pelvis, but this time on the right-hand side.

While others may have considered euthanising the horse, Mouse Morris was determined to do everything possible to ensure Rule The World had a good chance of recovery. "We always thought he was a good horse so we would have done anything to save him. But when you look at his rear end now you wouldn't think he'd win a Grand National," he said.

After several weeks on box rest, Ciaran Murphy brought the gelding to Co Westmeath for a second stint of intensive rehabilitation. "The first time there was muscle wastage on the left hand-side and maybe this contributed to him injuring himself on the other side. It's hard to know. Again we proceeded to do a lot of lunging and flatwork to get him back.

"I always remember taking him off the lorry and Mouse almost reduced to tears. He couldn't believe we'd gotten him back to health a second time."

Rule The World indeed made a full recovery and on his debut over fences the following November finished a creditable second in a Beginners' Chase. However, winning was never going to come easy and the son of Sulamani was to finish runner-up a further six times before breaking his duck at Aintree two weeks ago. "It just shows the talent of the trainer to get the horse back to win such a race," added Ciaran Murphy.

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