x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Yeats is now the greatest

Superhorse Yeats' incredible fourth successive Gold Cup may never be rivalled by any other racehorse.

The eight-year-old Yeats, ridden by Johnny Murtagh, in dark blue on extreme right, rode with the pack till the bend before setting off early to win the Gold Cup on Ladies' Day at the Royal Ascot for a record fourth consecutive time.
The eight-year-old Yeats, ridden by Johnny Murtagh, in dark blue on extreme right, rode with the pack till the bend before setting off early to win the Gold Cup on Ladies' Day at the Royal Ascot for a record fourth consecutive time.

ASCOT // Superhorse Yeats yesterday accomplished a feat that may never be rivalled by any other racehorse when Johnny Murtagh piloted him to an incredible fourth successive Gold Cup victory. His trainer, Aidan O'Brien, said afterwards that his horse is only flesh and blood. Anyone watching the marathon 2m 4f race, however, may wish to dispute that as the grand old campaigner appeared to fly down the home stretch when sent for home teeth-clenchingly early by his jockey.

But Murtagh made the right call and Yeats, displaying the spirit that won him his previous record of three Gold Cups at Ascot, was never caught, finishing ahead of Sir Michael Stoute's Patkai under Ryan Moore, by three-and-a-half lengths. The handy Geordieland, runner-up to Yeats in both 2006 and 2007 and prepared by Jamie Osborne, was a further 15 lengths back in third. Godolphin's Veracity, who had been challenging for the lead round the final bend, was pulled up lame by Frankie Dettori.

Murtagh has now ridden the son of Sadler's Wells in his last two triumphs in Royal Ascot's oldest and most prestigious race, with Kieron Fallon and Mick Kinane claiming Yeats' other victories in 2006 and 2007 respectively. As they broke from the gate, the David Nicholls-trained Hindu Kush took the early lead, opening up a gap of a few lengths from the following pack consisting of Yeats, Veracity, who was kept wide of the main pack by Dettori, and the John Gosden-trained Centennial under Jimmy Fortune.

As they went into the back straight and negotiated the wide bend the race began to take shape with Dettori encouraging Veracity to move up, eating into the lead of Hindu Kush. But it was as they came off the bend that Murtagh made the decisive move of the contest, sending Yeats for home from a very long way out. Confirmed back-runner, Geordieland, made his move under Shane Kelly, but he was well beaten to the line by Patkai, whose connections felt had run a little too keenly.

Afterwards an emotional O'Brien said it was a fairy tale come true. "I really believed it was possible but the horse is only flesh and blood," said O'Brien, admitting he had felt sick to the stomach. "It's something you dream and dream about, but when you catch yourself dreaming you try to stop. History is there for a reason. The record was there to be broken because it's such a hard thing to do. The horse is unbelievable."

O'Brien appeared to rule out another tilt at the Gold Cup next year when Yeats will be nine. "It's not my decision to make but I feel that he is unique - we know we will never get another one like him. His genes are obviously something special and because he's a stallion we can continue his line." Alone on the track after crossing the line, Murtagh had raised his arms to the skies, lent forward to embrace Yeats's neck, and said it was one of the greatest days of his career.

"He's the greatest," said the jockey. "Muhammad Ali said he was the greatest and he was and today Yeats has shown everybody that he is the ultimate heavyweight champion." Murtagh, who has a reputation as a big-race jockey was praised by O'Brien for keeping his cool during the race. "The pressure on Johnny would have been unbelievable," said O'Brien. "And the way he handled it and committed him so early - it was incredible. I have to say a big thank you to everyone involved with the horse."

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