‘At one stage we weren’t sure he would live’: horse makes remarkable comeback from infection to secure Gold Cup victory at Royal Ascot

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  • Kyprios just did enough to beat Trawlerman in a pulsating finish to regain the prestigious Group One Gold Cup at Royal Ascot today (20 June) under Ryan Moore. This was a remarkable achievement given that Kyprios suffered an almost career-ending injury early in 2023 in the form of a serious fetlock joint infection.

    Trained by Aidan O’Brien and owned by Moyglare, Magnier, Tabor, Smith and Westerberg, the six-year-old, who was sent off as 11/10 favourite, finished a length in front of the Godolphin-owned and John and Thady Gosden-trained Trawlerman.

    “It was smooth early on, and when Caius Chorister ran off with Benoit [de la Sayette], I ended up having to go round her and he was going too well too early,” explained Ryan, who was notching up his fourth victory in this race. “He was more value than the winning distance. We didn’t get it quite right but he still won.

    “Aidan knows exactly what is required to win this race and how to get his horses ready. I’m lucky to ride a horse like this and it’s great he can come back and do it again.”

    In winning the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, Kyprios became the third horse in history to regain victory in this race – Anticipation won it in 1816 and 1819 and Kayf Tara reclaimed it in 2000 having won in 1998.

    Kyprios won each of his six starts in 2022, including this Ascot showpiece, the Goodwood Cup, Irish St Leger and a tremendous 20-length success in the Prix du Cadran, but his injury put paid to him defending his title in this race in 2023.

    It marked a record-extending ninth success for O’Brien in this race and his 401st Group and Grade One victory.

    “There were so many people involved in bringing him back following his injury,” said O’Brien. “His owners have shown great patience with him, he had two lovely runs when he was back last year and did well over the winter.

    “He’s a beautiful horse and Ryan was masterful with how he rode him. He had to judge exactly when to go on him, which is not an easy thing to do.

    “I’d say it’s millions to one,” said Aidan on the odds of horses returning to work following the type of infection Kyprios incurred. “It was really impossible to come back from what he came back from. At one stage we weren’t sure he would live.”

    O’Brien added: “He got an infection in his joint, and it got into the joint capsule. Usually what happens is that they lose the movement in the joint – and for a while he did – but it came back.

    “At one stage, it didn’t look like he was going to live. Then it was getting him to stand, and then to walk, then to trot, then teaching him how to canter again, because he had to move all his body in different ways again. It was incredible, it’s unbelievable really. He always had the most incredible mind, that was always his power probably, was his mind.

    He added: “It was really like someone having the most horrific injury, as a human being, and winning the Olympics to get back to move and to walk.

    “It shouldn’t have happened, to come back like that, but it happened. I thought at every stage was never going to happen. When there’s that many people working together in that kind of a special way, anything was possible. Nobody was for themselves. Everyone was for him. Nobody was trying to take credit for anything. Everyone was passing it on and working it out with each other.”

    Sweet William stayed on well to finish third ahead of the Willie Mullins-trained Vauban, with Coltrane claiming fifth.

    Don’t miss the full report from Royal Ascot 2024 in the 27 June issue of Horse & Hound magazine. 

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