Miraculous Edwulf to go for Gold
One of the oddest sights at the last Cheltenham Festival was the talented novice chaser Edwulf doing a fair impression of a gazelle in the late stages of the National Hunt Chase, his powerful stride suddenly becoming a most unnatural lope. "Odd" is how it looks now, in the comforting knowledge that he made a full recovery.
Having been in second place after the last of 25 fences, Edwulf slowed to a stop in a matter of yards. As the cameras averted their gaze, one TV pundit mourned "what seems to have happened to him", perhaps knowing, as viewers did not, that Edwulf had then collapsed and was being tended by vets behind green screens.
Sometimes, a horse rises from behind those screens to relieved appreciation from the grandstands. Edwulf was still on the ground 40 minutes later, having been slid off to the side of the track so the last race could be run.
It was most surprising to learn the next morning that Edwulf was, in fact, still breathing. It was amazing when he showed no lasting effects just a fortnight later as he returned to his Kilkenny stable, and nothing short of flabbergasting when he won the Irish Gold Cup last month as a 33/1 chance on only his second run since the day he appeared to be on his way out. "I never had a horse do what he did," said his jockey, Derek O'Connor. "He ran himself into the ground for me at Cheltenham. We thought his career was over but he's after coming back to his best."
On Friday, Edwulf gets a chance to take his story into the realm of Hollywood wish fulfilment when he lines up, at 25/1, in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
As for what caused Edwulf to suffer such distress, Kearns says: "He didn't fit in with the typical signs we would see with heat stress. The neurological signs he showed would be more consistent with an acute oxygen deficit to the brain. You sometimes see it in triathletes, where, as well as showing fatigue, they show incoordination."
Kearns cannot recall a case like it in his 30 years working at racecourses and sees no reason why Edwulf should suffer a repeat, or be troubled by any memory of it when he returns to Cheltenham. "I would say not. He recovered well . . . so I wouldn't see any after-effects from that point of view." At all events, if something does go wrong this week, Kearns and his team are well placed to support any possible recovery. "There is a very experienced team at Cheltenham and we are afforded any facilities we want for the care of the horses."
Sunday Indo Sport