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Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Never say die! Edwulf's miraculous recovery puts cherry on top of weekend

David Jennings on a superb second day to be celebrated

Pulsating finish: Joseph O’Brien’s Edwulf (left), the mount of Derek O’Connor, gets the better of Outlander in the Grade 1 Unibet Irish Gold Cup
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Joseph O'Brien has packed a couple of extraordinary chapters into his autobiography but surely ripping up a horse's eulogy, giving him the kiss of life, then getting him to win an Irish Gold Cup is the most compelling of them all. Not even landing the Melbourne Cup could compete with that.

When Edwulf eventually departed the scene after failing to complete in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last year it would have taken more than a leap of faith to imagine his survival, such were the extent of his injuries, never mind a return to the racetrack.

But return he has and he isn't half taking advantage of his second shot at life.

Form figures of PP are more usually associated with sellers than Grade 1s worth €200,000 in prize-money, and, while Sunday's stunning triumph was a heart-warming tale, none of it made sense. Not even his starting price. He returned at 33-1. He should have been 333-1.

Trainer Joseph O'Brien (centre) celebrates Edwulf's victory with owner JP McManus and jockey Derek O'Connor

He was officially the worst horse in the race with a rating of 152. Our Duke was rated 167. Barry Geraghty picked Anibale Fly and Mark Walsh snubbed Edwulf for Minella Rocco, who didn't even jump the final three fences in the Christmas Chase on his last visit to Leopardstown just 38 days previously.

Aidan, it seems, is not the only O'Brien who can turn water into wine.

Speaking of Jesus, did he or did he not make an appearance in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle? Michael O'Leary says it was only an optical illusion, but the bookmakers saw something a little more substantial. Samcro is now 8-11 for the Ballymore with Paddy Power and 4-6 with bet365. Rightly so, even if the Ryanair chief doesn't think so.

"There’s far too much hype and bulls*** being talked about him over the last few months," stressed O'Leary afterwards. Not even an utterly dominant Grade 1 win earns you praise from Michael.

The horse was not to be hyped but, in an extraordinary set of circumstances, his trainer received lavish praise. Now this was something that doesn't happen very often.

"Gordon [Elliott] is such a young great talent. I think he's somewhat overweight, not as good looking as me, but he’s better at training horses than I am. I’m thinking of getting him in to roster a few pilots and sort out the other issues!"

Wait, there was more.

Gordon Elliott with Samcro: "I think he's overweight, good looking as me, but he’s better at training horses than I am," said owner Michael O'Leary

"The great thing about Gordon is where he's come from. You get people complaining it's a closed shop in Ireland and that it is all Willie and the others. Gordon has arrived here from nowhere, driving a box to Ayr."

Elliott will need to be as good as his main owner says he is to fend off Mullins in what is once again turning into an epic trainers' title race.

On Saturday morning he was almost €607,000 ahead. By Sunday night that lead was reeled in to €257,250. And if Killultagh Vic's now-customary last-fence calamity had not happened he would be even closer. Elliott is now out to 4-6 with Paddy Power, while Mullins is in to 11-10. That scrap will be stirring.

We started off with a scrap on Sunday morning too, a war of words for the ages. Ted Walsh and Matt Chapman are as talented with their tongues as Footpad is with his feet and they were at loggerheads for most of the show. You couldn't help but sit and smile.

"If I'm in heaven and you're there, Matt, I'll know I'm not in heaven," was one of Walsh's most powerful uppercuts.

The Sunday Forum set the tone for a superb second leg of the Dublin Racing Festival. There may have been comedians on stage in the main marquee but this was no laughing matter. This weekend needed to work and work it did.

'It's very exciting'

From Faugheen succumbing to Supasundae, to Footpad's flawless round of jumping, to Samcro's sensational show, to Edwulf's masterful impression of Lazarus, every race was worth watching and healthy crowds showed up to watch them.

Sunday's attendance of 12,031 made it 26,136 for the two days. That was above all expectations and meant we had a very content Pat Keogh.

"It’s a new concept and is very exciting and we could not have been happier with the way year one has gone," said the Leopardstown chief executive.

"I'd like to thank the thousands of people who turned up and enjoyed the Dublin Racing Festival this weekend. The support we've received from people in the locality, from all over Ireland, and from Britain, has been fantastic."

Fantastic indeed. The support Edwulf received at Cheltenham last March wasn't bad either, and JP McManus heaped praise upon all those who contributed to his remarkable resurrection.

"When he lay on the ground at Cheltenham it wasn't looking good," McManus admitted. “Gerry Kelly and all the veterinary team at Cheltenham did a wonderful job. Even Sarah O'Brien deserves a mention, taking off her high heels and bringing him buckets of water in all her finery. We thought they might resurrect him and he could have a comfortable retirement."

It seems Edwulf is not ready to put on his slippers and sip cocoa just yet. There is a small matter of a Cheltenham Gold Cup to contest before then.


If you liked this you may wish to read . . .

He's back: Cheltenham nightmare horse Edwulf to return at Leopardstown


 

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