Kyprios back on top in Ascot Gold Cup thriller

Kyprios became the first horse since Kayf Tara in 2000 to regain the £650,000, Group 1 Gold Cup (4100m) with a determined display under Ryan Moore at Royal Ascot on Thursday.

Kyprios and Ryan Moore supreme in the Gold Cup, picture Liesl King

The winner in 2022, but forced to miss last year’s race after suffering an infection in a fetlock joint, Kyprios (11/10F) stormed back to his best, becoming a record ninth winner of Royal Ascot’s famous staying race for trainer Aidan O’Brien.

The six-year-old showed all his class and battling qualities as he triumphed in a thrilling home-straight duel with John & Thady Gosden’s Trawlerman, who had been his conqueror in Ascot’s QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup in October. 

There was a length between the pair at the line, with Trawlerman’s stable-mate Sweet William staying on past Vauban to finish third, five lengths further back. 

On how unusual it is for a horse to come back after the issue Kyprios had, O’Brien said: “I’d say it is millions to one. It was really impossible to come back from what he came back from. At one stage we weren’t sure he would live. This horse has got back to the very top level, which is just incredible. It’s unbelievable really – it shouldn’t have happened, I don’t know how it happened, but I think it happened because of all the people who have been around him and done so much day in, day out – they have been so committed, they communicated so well, everyone put him first. There’s so many people, it’s incredible.

“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! It’s from the care that they all took to get him back. It’s incredible.

“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. 

“It shouldn’t have happened, to come back like that, but it happened. Nothing is impossible, especially when you see that. I think it’s the people who have been dealing with him all the way and looking after him. I remember when he went down to work the first time, I remember Rachel was riding him, and I didn’t know what was going to happen. No horse has ever been x-rayed, scanned more in their life, than him. Because every stage, he had to be redone, redone, redone. At every little bit. Then when he came back into training, it was every day, every day – was it moving? Was it changing? Was it getting better? It was incredible. 

“I thought at every stage it was never going to happen. When there are 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.

“He stays forever. Ryan said going out, ‘I know he stays best, he has the most speed as well’. Incredible horse, really. It’s easy to say that, but to make it happen like he did out there is another thing.”

On Ryan Moore, O’Brien said: “Every year Ryan rides, he gets better. Every year he has ridden for us, he gets better. He is the complete package and puts it all in, in every way – he is so committed, so straight, so loyal, so dedicated, such an athlete. And every year, he improves. He’s only 40 now and he will definitely keep getting better well into his mid-40s the way he is going.

“Ryan gave him an unbelievable ride. Incredible. It wasn’t easy. The second horse passed him here last year, and the second horse came back at him. I could see Ryan biding his time, and he went there and went there… it’s incredible, it’s masterful stuff, really. It’s not simple, it’s incredible. An incredible horse and I’m so delighted for everybody. There’s an unbelievable team around him that make it happen.”

Moore said: “It was smooth early. That's where I wanted to be, but then the filly [Caius Chorister] ran off with Benoit [de la Sayette]. I was having to go round her and Kyprios started travelling a bit too well too early.

“I got there going very easy. I said to Aidan that he's the class horse in the race and he stays the best, so I've just got to get it right. I didn't get it quite right but he still won. He's an unbelievable horse. Aidan knows exactly what they need to do, he knows how to get them here better than anyone.

“It is lovely to ride a horse like this.”

John Gosden said of the placed horses: “I think with Trueshan coming out of the race, and he would have been the obvious pace, we were left in the knowledge that there was no pace and let Trawlerman go on and do his own thing. When Kyprios came to him, there was a battle, and that's what you like to see, a ding-dong right to the line. We nailed Kyprios in the mud and he's beaten us on the fast ground today. Sweet William thinks about life – he gets there when he wants to! He does everything in his own time but he ran really well to be third. Second and third is a great run from both horses."

Trawlerman’s rider William Buick said: “He was foot-perfect the whole way, and when I turned in, I thought I had plenty of horse. He kept finding all the way to the line and, even when the winner headed me, he came back. It was a huge run. He stayed the trip. I’m sure Goodwood will be the next target. The winner’s been here and done it before so you’ve got to respect him, but Trawlerman has run a mighty race.”

Sweet William’s owner-breeder Philippa Cooper said: “I am so pleased. He had five screws in as a two-year-old, so it’s been a long journey. I am so proud of him. You’d think I had won the race! I could see the other horse [I bred], Gregory, but he just didn’t get the trip. Sweet William doesn’t pick up, but he gallops and stays on. Rab says he’s improving, and if he stays sound, he could be back. It was very, very special.”

4.25pm Gold Cup (Group 1) (British Champions Series)
1 Kyprios (Moyglare, Magnier, Tabor, Smith, Westerberg) Aidan O’Brien IRE 6-9-04 Ryan Moore 11/10F
2 Trawlerman (Godolphin) John & Thady Gosden 6-9-04 William Buick 7/1
3 Sweet William (Normandie Stud Ltd) John & Thady Gosden 5-9-04 Robert Havlin 9/1
9 ran    

Aidan O’Brien – 89th Royal Ascot winner
Ryan Moore – 83rd Royal Ascot winner

The Gold Cup field passing the grandstand for the first time, picture Liesl King