Monday 17 December 2018

From near death to glory, Edwulf completes stirring comeback

Jockey Derek O’Connor with trainer Joseph O’Brien in the parade ring after winning the Irish Gold Cup on Edwulf. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Jockey Derek O’Connor with trainer Joseph O’Brien in the parade ring after winning the Irish Gold Cup on Edwulf. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Thomas Kelly

A comeback from the dead and a magnificent seven were the main talking points from the second day of action at Leopardstown.

Joseph O'Brien's Edwulf nearly died last March, and yesterday the JP McManus-owned gelding won one of the most coveted prizes on this side of the Irish Sea by landing the Unibet Gold Cup.

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

In what was a tremendous training performance, 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.

"He's always been a great horse," said the Melbourne Cup-winning handler.

"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."

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

Anibale Fly also took a crashing fall, while Our Vic 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 in the closing stages.

The fall of Killultagh Vic - who had travelled into contention - was one of the few setbacks over the two days for Mullins who came away with seven winners from the new festival thanks to yesterday's 133/1 treble.

First to score in the hat-trick was Mr Adjudicator which maintained his unbeaten record over timber in the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle.

Stepped up to Grade One company after winning at the Christmas meeting at this track, Paul Townend was content to sit off the pace. The outsider Tenth Amendment set only a steady tempo and that was to the detriment of the 4/5 favourite Espoir D'Allen, who raced very keenly in the hands of Barry Geraghty.

Farclas, behind Espoir D'Allen on his hurdling debut, loomed up turning in but Townend was still happy to bide his time until asking for everything after the last.

The 3/1 chance, trained by Joe Murphy on the level, pulled a length and a quarter clear and is now available at around 8/1 mark for the Triumph Hurdle.

Mullins' so-called good thing of the meeting obliged as Total Recall took the William Fry Handicap Hurdle.

Despite a huge field, his charge was sent off the 5/6 favourite, having won the Ladbrokes Trophy over fences last time out.

Running off a mark some 31lb lower over hurdles than his chase rating, many expected him to win but not much went right during the race. He was ultra-keen for Townend, lost a shoe, and also had to make his own running for much of the race.

Despite using so much energy, Total Recall was still able to pull away after the last and beat Oscar Knight by three lengths.

The Closutton handler's final visit to the winner's enclosure came thanks to the victory of Relegate in the closing mares' bumper.

The 16/1 outsider was ridden by Katie Walsh, with assistant trainer and son Patrick preferring the claims of odds-on favourite Colreevy, which finished third.

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