06/18/2009 12:00AM

Yeats triumphs in fourth straight Gold Cup

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Racing Post
Jockey Johnny Murtagh celebrates Yeats's history-making fourth straight victory in the Ascot Gold Cup.

Yeats erased all doubts about who is the king of the stayers on Thursday as the redoubtable 8-year-old son of Sadler's Wells scored his fourth consecutive triumph in the $410,000 Ascot Gold Cup, the 2 1/2-mile marathon that has always served as the Royal Ascot centerpiece.

Neither trainer Aidan O'Brien nor rider Johnny Murtagh could be certain that Yeats could do again in the Gold Cup what he had done the previous three years, because he had run so poorly when finishing a distant sixth in the listed Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan on April 26. But on this day the champion was as good as ever, giving Patkai a sound 3 1/2-length thrashing with Geordieland, the runner-up in the last two Gold Cups, 15 lengths farther behind in third. A Ladies Day crowd of more than 60,000 made Yeats their 3-2 favorite, and their hopes ran high as their hero sat perfectly in third behind the pacesetting Hindu Kush. On the turn for home Murtagh asked Yeats the question, and the response was instantaneous. He went quickly clear, his triumphal run through the stretch a procession to immortality. The greatest stayer of modern times, if not of all time, had done it again.

His winning time of 4:20.73 on good to firm ground was academic. Yeats's previous Gold Cup scores had been by four lengths at 7-1 in 2006; 1 1/2 lengths at 8-13 in 2007; and five lengths at 11-8 last year, a combined winning margin of 14 lengths in the world's most prestigious stayers' race.

Yeats had come into this year's Gold Cup tied with Sagaro, the Francois Boutin trainee who had become the first horse to win three straight Gold Cups from 1975 to 1977. Now Yeats stands alone, and a normally phlegmatic O'Brien was ecstatic.

"History is hard to change," he told the Racing Post. "We knew we had a wonderful horse, but usually fairy tales don't come true."

Earlier, Wesley Ward had his hopes for a third consecutive Royal Ascot victory dashed as Yogaroo came a cropper in the Group 2, $147,000 Norfolk Stakes. John Velazquez had him on the lead in the five-furlong juvenile sprint but was soon niggling him along to maintain a narrow edge. It all came apart at the three-sixteenths pole when a tiring Yogaroo veered suddenly left, bumping the favored Monsieur Chevalier, who in turn cut off Radiohead, who somehow managed to recover to score a two-length victory over Reignier at 10-1. The winning time was 1:02.07 as Yogaroo weakened to finish ninth of 11, beaten 12 3/4 lengths.

Godolphin broke its slump in the Group 2, $205,000 Ribblesdale Stakes as Flying Cloud ad Frankie Dettori scored a sharp-looking four-length victory over Flame of Gibraltar. Previously the winner of the Group 3 Prix Cleopatre at Saint-Cloud when trained by Andre Fabre, Flying Cloud had been switched from Darley to Godolphin expressly for this race. She covered the 1 1/2 miles in 2:30.67 as the 5-1 third choice as the 15-8 favorite, Leocorno, finished a one-paced fourth, 5 1/2 lengths behind the winner.