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Royal Ascot moments: Four in a row for Yeats

Mention the Gold Cup at Ascot and it invariably sparks thoughts of the magnificent record-breaking stayer Yeats, who won the Blue Riband prize four years on the spin for Aidan O'Brien.

Yeats penned his glorious chapter in Royal Ascot folklore from 2006-2009, dominating the feature race of the meeting and winning under three different jockeys. 

Royal Ascot 2023 is looming large on the horizon and we are taking a look back at some famous contests that have unfolded on the famous stretch of Berkshire turf. 

Watch every race from Royal Ascot 2023 via the bet365 live Sports Stream Service as the pinnacle meeting of the Flat season and a true British sporting institution takes place from Tuesday 20th June – Saturday 24th June.

Dominance remains unmatched

Yeats raced 26 times in his career and won on 15 occasions. He didn't quite have that all-conquering dominance of some of the superstars that went before and after him, but the Aidan O'Brien-trained staying star did have the ability to be at his best when the biggest prize of the year was being handed out. 

That, of course, for any stayer was the Ascot Gold Cup and his feat of winning it four times remains unmatched to the present day with only one horse – Stradivarius – even managing to get a shot at equalling the tally. 

A peak rating of 122 – a perch he maintained fairly steadfastly – would suggest that perhaps Yeats wasn't among the most gifted of performers to win the Gold Cup, but what is undeniable was his longevity as a racehorse. 

In beating the best of the proven older stayers as a five-year-old in 2006 and also seeing off younger rivals at the age of eight come 2009, Yeats proved himself the best and most durable stayer Ascot has ever seen.

Rising to the top

Yeats won his first three starts in Ireland, his stamina yet to be severely tested as he went no further than a mile-and-a-quarter. 

In the summer of 2005, after being beaten on his seasonal bow at the Curragh, he sampled Group 1 glory for the first time, landing the Coronation Cup at Epsom. 

He'd have two more runs that year, in France and the Irish St Leger, without success. 

After a 278-day break he lined up in the Ascot Gold Cup for the first in '06 as a 7/1 chance with Kieran Fallon on board. 

Market leaders Reefscape and Distinction had a real battle for second and third spot, but Fallon and Yeats were out on their own, four-lengths too strong for the pack.

The Yeats era at Ascot

A Goodwood Cup would follow in 2006 before a failed bid for the Melbourne Cup in November. 

Come 2007, O'Brien plotted pre-Ascot wins at Navan and Leopardstown en route to holding off Geordieland back in the Gold Cup, this time with Mick Kinane in the saddle. 

He grabbed an Irish St Leger that September and was third in a Longchamp Group 1 over two-and-a- half-miles on his final start. 

A second win in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan kicked off his 2008 campaign before Ascot once more, where this time he had more to spare in seeing off Geordieland for Jamie Osborne and Shane Kelly in a dominant display that saw him complete a brilliant Gold Cup hat-trick.

Four of the best at Ascot

His fourth and final Gold Cup success in 2009 will, for years to come, remain one of the most iconic moments in Royal Ascot's glorious history. 

He was tailed off in the Vintage Crop at Navan on his comeback with the vet reporting Yeats to have blown hard post-race. 

Straight onto Ascot, and the three-time champ was a 6/4 chance to make it four, as he was a year previously, with Johnny Murtagh on his back. 

So often ridden off the pace, Murtagh had Yeats in front rank throughout on this occasion, eager not to miss a beat. 

With a half-mile to go, he pressed the button and asked Yeats to go and win his race, the partnership exhibiting a turn of foot off the final bend that belied the passing years. 

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Patkai, running the race of his life for Ryan Moore and Sir Michael Stoute, emerged as the danger from the pack but Yeats was resolute and wouldn't allow the gap to be bridged as he won by four lengths, with a mammoth 15 lengths more back to Geordieland in third. 

Murtagh was unequivocal afterwards. "He's the greatest," he said. "Yeats has shown today that he is the ultimate heavyweight champion. 

"He comes to life at Royal Ascot. Yeats is everything positive about racing." 

For his part, O'Brien acknowledged the huge achievement and the way it had left him feeling pre-race on that final trip to Ascot. 

"I was so sick this morning as I really believed this couldn't happen," said the trainer. 

"History is very hard to change. We knew we had a wonderful horse, but usually fairytales don't come true."

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