yeats johnny murtagh gold cup
yeats johnny murtagh gold cup

Yeats and Johnny Murtagh

Gold Cup 2009

(Photo : Press Association)

Royal Ascot yesterday witnessed the carving of history as Yeats (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells) put his name on the roll of honor for the Gr1 Gold Cup for an unprecedented fourth time.

The Thoroughbred Daily News writes that banishing the memory of a rare below-par effort on his return in the Listed Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan April 26, Susan Magnier and Diane Nagle’s modern great justified all of the confidence that saw him hammered into 6-4 when powering to a 3 1/2-length defeat of Patkai (Ire) (Indian Ridge {Ire}). There was a further 15 lengths back to the second favorite Geordieland (Fr) (Johann Quatz {Fr}), reinforcing the visual impression of the performance.

‘It’s unbelievable - I was so sick all morning, because I really believed this couldn’t happen and history is very hard to change’ an emotional Aidan O’Brien said.

Horses like Yeats don’t come along more than once in a lifetime and I’ve never seen scenes like it before - all the cheering and those posters and flags for him - that’s what it’s all about. It’s more than money and value with him, it’s something really special. We knew we had a wonderful horse, but usually fairy tales don’t come true, even though you dream and dream.

Yeats might not have traveled down this route had he not been injured before the Epsom Derby five years ago, but the rest is certainly history. Apart from his list of Gold Cup triumphs under three different jockeys, the stalwart of Ballydoyle had also garnered top-level successes in Epsom’s Gr1 Coronation Cup in 2005, the Curragh’s Gr1 Irish St Leger two years ago and last year’s renewal of the Gr1 Prix Royal-Oak at Longchamp. That performance demonstrated that he was still at a peak despite his age, but while only eight months had passed to now, the evidence at Navan on his only subsequent start raised inevitable doubts.

As soon as this landmark event was underway, it was clear that the real Yeats was back on the scene and Johnny Murtagh played it cool early as his mount raced hard on the bridle close to the pace. Leaving the attack until coming out of Swinley Bottom, his rider built the customary irresistible momentum that saw the dark bay open up daylight in early stretch.

By the time Ryan Moore emerged with a flourish on the four-years younger Patkai, age was no longer an issue and the name of Yeats was stenciled onto the winner’s board once again.

Johnny Murtagh likened Yeats to Muhammad Ali beforehand and reiterated that sentiment afterwards. ‘He is the greatest - the ultimate heavyweight champ,’ Murtagh commented. ‘He loves fast ground, he loves Royal Ascot and comes alive here. It was truly one of the greatest days in my riding career. The crowd have come out in force to see him today and he’s everything that’s positive about racing.’ Aidan O’Brien added. ‘He’s very clever and has gone wise, but the boss pointed out the other morning that, in his last work, he put in four 11 1/2-second furlongs one after another.’

“When a stayer can do those times, all the class has to be there.”