06/18/2007 11:00PM

Yeats seeks Ascot Gold Cup repeat

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Yeats goes in search of a second successive victory in the 2 1/2-mile Ascot Gold Cup, the traditional Royal Ascot centerpiece, Thursday, when he will be met with a stern challenge from the people's choice, Sergeant Cecil.

The 2006 triumph posted by Yeats in the $446,000 Group 1 marathon was arguably the most impressive performance at last year's Royal Meeting, when he cruised home by four lengths. A 6-year-old Aidan O'Brien-trained son of Sadler's Wells, Yeats has had two perfectly correct preps in Ireland, winning a pair of listed races at 1 3/4 miles. He could go off as short as 3-5 with Michael Kinane in the saddle.

Sergeant Cecil, a popular 8-year-old gelding trained by Brian Millman, finished 8 1/2 lengths fifth in last year's Gold Cup, but he has thrived since then, winning the 2 1/2-mile Group 1 Prix du Cadran at Longchamp in October and the 1 3/4-mile Group 2 Yorkshire Cup on Mayo18. Jimmy Fortune has the ride, but Yeats at the top of his game will be difficult to beat.

Two French invaders with chances are the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Lord du Sud and the George Strawbridge-owned Montare. They were first and third in the 1 15/16-mile Group 2 Prix Vicomtesse Vigier last time and are both tough and consistent.

The Gold Cup undercard features a prospective duel between All My Loving and Dalvina in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes, a 1 1/2-mile contest for 3-year-old fillies worth $277,000. The O'Brien-trained All My Loving was second in the listed Cheshire Oaks and fourth in the English Oaks, both times behind Light Shift, while listed winner Dalvina disappointed when 11th in the English Oaks.

O'Brien will saddle a third group-race favorite in the $138,000 Norfolk Stakes, a five-furlong juvenile Groupo2. However, his listed winner Warsaw may find the Jeremy Noseda-trained Strike the Deal, a speedy two-length maiden winner on the Lingfield Polytrack in his debut, too hard to handle.