06/21/2006 11:00PM

Yeats returns in style to dominate Gold Cup

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Edward Whitaker / Racing Post
Takeover Target (third from left), winning Tuesday's King's Stand, returns for Saturday's Golden Jubilee.

ASCOT, England - Yeats added a touch of class to a race that has long been the epitome of Thoroughbred stamina at Royal Ascot on Thursday. His four-length victory in the storied Ascot Gold Cup will give heart to everyone in the racing world who goes against the grain in believing that stamina has been ignored by breeders around the world.

Yeats is part of the team of owner Susan Magnier, trainer Aidan O'Brien, and jockey Kieren Fallon, which won Tuesday's Queen Anne Stakes with Ad Valorem. The winter book favorite for the 2004 Epsom Derby before missing the race because of a back injury, Yeats powered clear entering the 2 1/2-furlong stretch Thursday and had plenty of gas in the tank to finish the $393,000 Gold Cup's full 20 furlongs.

Off at 7-1 in the Gold Cup, Yeats had not won since leading throughout on a slow pace to take the 1 1/2-mile Coronation Cup at Epsom last June. He was making his first start in 242 days, a testament to the genius of O'Brien.

French invader Reefscape, the winner of last October's 2 1/2-mile Prix du Cadran at Longchamp, finished second, a head in front of Distinction, the 5-2 favorite. The time for 2 1/2 miles was 4:20.45 on good to firm ground, an average of barely more than 13 seconds a furlong.

"He had a few problems earlier this year, and we've just had to be patient with him," O'Brien said. "We've always believed in him. It's exciting, because we've never had a Cup horse before. Maybe he'll go for the Goodwood Cup now."

O'Brien was noncommittal, however, about sending Yeats to Australia for the Melbourne Cup Handicap, because "he'll probably be given too much weight now, but we'll see what the handicapper does."

Mont Etoile takes Ribblesdale Stakes

Legendary English jockey Lester Piggott was back in the Royal Ascot winner's circle on Thursday, when Mont Etoile, a filly he owns with Tony Hirschfield and Des Scott, won the Group 2, $260,000 Ribblesdale Stakes. Off at 25-1, Mont Etoile split horses in deep stretch under Michael Hills and prevailed by a neck over Scottish Stage, who was the favorite.

Takeover Target on three days' rest

Fresh off a head victory Tuesday in the five-furlong King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, Australian raider Takeover Target will be wheeled right back Saturday in the Group 1, $647,000 Golden Jubilee Stakes.

Joe Janiak, the owner and trainer of Takeover Target, said he has no qualms about trying Takeover Target on three days' rest. Noting that it is the Southern Hemisphere equivalent of December in Australia now, Janiak was upbeat about Takeover Target's chances.

"He still has his winter coat and was a bit on the big side for the King's Stand," he said. "He should be right for Saturday now."

Jay Ford, who gave Takeover Traget a perfect ride Tuesday, will again be on board. A victory would give Australia its second King's Stand-Golden Jubilee double. Choisir pulled it off in 2003.

Takeover Target is a Group 1 winner at six furlongs, so the extra furlong should not be a problem. In fact, the biggest problem he may have is beating another Aussie invader, Glamour Puss. She finished seventh, just a length behind Takeover Target, in the King's Stand and is probably better over six furlongs.

Few of the 16 others in the field have the credentials for an upset, although one must note Iffraj, who won last year's six-furlong Wokingham Handicap at Royal Ascot; Fayr Jag, who won the 2004 Golden Jubilee; and The Tatling.

The Group 2, $260,000 Hardwicke Stakes, a 1 1/2-mile race for older horses, may feature the return of Shawanda, the Sinndar filly who won the Irish Oaks and Prix Vermeille last year when she was owned by the Aga Khan. She is now owned by Godolphin. Trainer Saeed bin Suroor said he will wait until Friday before making a decision on the Hardwicke, a race whose distance should suit Shawanda perfectly. If Godolphin has her ready, she should take the measure of Irish St. Leger winner and Dubai Sheema Classic runner-up Collier Hill.