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Courageous Kyprios completes ‘million to one’ comeback

Courageous Kyprios completes ‘million to one’ comeback
Courageous Kyprios completes ‘million to one’ comeback

In 2022, the long and enjoyable Stradivarius era looked to be coming to a close, the staying division having been dominated by a striking chestnut with a white face and huge fan club.

Almost immediately, there seemed a natural successor, the baton was passed when Aidan O’Brien’s Kyprios defeated Stradivarius in the Gold Cup and proceeded to land the Goodwood Cup, the Irish St Leger and the Prix du Cadran in a flawless campaign.

Injury then intervened and not in a gentle way, the joint capsule in Kyprios’ off fore fetlock became infected and it was not just his racing career that then hung in the balance.

The injury can cause a total loss of use of the limb and it was therefore a very real possibility that the horse would not come out of the other side.

The patience of his owners, the unfaltering faith of his trainer and the meticulous care Kyprios received from those around him prevented that fate, but even a runaway optimist would have been hard pressed to imagine him ever returning to the track in the same form, if at all.

Royal Ascot 2024 – Day Three – Ascot Racecourse
Kyprios and Ryan Moore winning the Gold Cup (David Davies/PA)

The fact he came back to run twice last season was miraculous enough, and those were two solid second-placed efforts in the Irish St Leger and the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup – sure signs his talent had not diminished.

This year, the chestnut took the Listed Vintage Crop on his seasonal debut at Navan and Leopardstown’s Group Three Saval Beg next time out, more firm evidence that he was still the force of old.

When returning to Ascot for the Gold Cup, this time he was the 10-11 favourite, a status that seemed fitting given his recent runs, but was astonishing considering he could have once been considered lucky to be alive.

Under Ryan Moore, he competed in what was a proper horse race, culminating in a neck-and-neck tussle with John and Thady Gosden’s Trawlerman in the final two furlongs.

Kyprios was the horse who dug deepest, drawing perhaps on the same resilience and will that lifted him quite literally to his feet after a near-death experience and carried him through the process of having to learn to be a racehorse again.

Royal Ascot 2024 – Day Three – Ascot Racecourse
Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore after the victory (John Walton/PA)

“It’s a million to one, it’s almost impossible to come back from what he came back from,” O’Brien said.

“At one stage, we weren’t sure that he would live, but then he came back, we had to teach him how to walk and get him on a treadmill.

“Then we had to teach him how to trot and how to canter, this was before a rider ever went near him.

“It was like someone having the most horrific injury, a human being, and going from winning the Olympics to having to learn to move and walk, then getting back to the very top level.

“It shouldn’t have happened, I don’t know how it happened. I think it was because of all the people around him who did so much, day in, day out, and were so committed. Everyone put him first.

Royal Ascot 2024 – Day Three – Ascot Racecourse
Kyprios returning to the paddock (Yui Mok/PA)

“I have never experienced anything within 100 miles of it. He got an infection in his joint and it got into his joint capsule, usually what happens then is that they lose the movement in the joint – and for a while he did, but it came back.

“It shouldn’t have happened, to come back like that, but it happened. Nothing is impossible.”

Moyglare Stud bred and still jointly own Kyprios, alongside Michael Tabor, John Magnier, Paul Smith and Westerberg, and the stud’s Fiona Craig was as amazed as O’Brien to see him triumph by a length after the ordeal of his injury.

“It is all down to Aidan, I saw him all the way through and I never thought he’d make it here,” she said.

“The horse has a heart the size of a house; he battled to live, he battled to come back. Aidan never lost confidence, he just said ‘give him time’.

“Now we go on and we just dream about the future. I said to Michael Tabor, ‘we’ll see you here next year!’.

“With the injury, he doesn’t have much mileage, his two runs last year were just stunning. He wasn’t ridden until the beginning of July and he ran in the Irish St Leger (in September), it just goes to show, that’s the horse. He will always try.”

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