06/21/2006 11:00PM

Yeats triumphs in Ascot Gold Cup


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 Magnier/O'Brien/Fallon team that 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 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 trainer Aidan 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 winners' circle on Thursday, when Mont Etoile, a filly he co-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. The winning time was 2:30.23.