Yeats extends the scale of greatness

Fourth Gold Cup victory elevates horse and trainer to unique place in firmament

How do you measure a horse like Yeats? By the bald fact that he yesterday became the first to win the Gold Cup four times? Or maybe by some other detail – for instance, that the animal he beat by three and a half lengths, Patkai, was in turn dragged fully 15 lengths clear of the rest? Or that he has now galloped 10 miles here, without once being remotely menaced with defeat?

You could do all that, just as scientists can tell you how many miles divide us from the moon, or the sun, or Neptune. But nobody can measure the firmament itself, and at the age of eight Yeats has now transcended every conventional gauge. He can only be measured in the way of cosmologists, who turn questions upon themselves, and treat infinity as a way of learning more about their own mortality.

Something of that sense suffused the man riding this paragon. "The world is in turmoil at the moment," Johnny Murtagh said afterwards. "But when you see the crowd, see people's faces when the horses come back into the ring, there's such a feeling of happiness. If you could bottle it, it would be something special. The brewing of the crowd for the last furlong carried the horse home. I felt something very special going past the line. I've never experienced anything like it."

Murtagh had kept Yeats handy throughout and settled the race when kicking clear off the home turn. In the process, Yeats not only left Patkai and company in his wake, but the phantoms of so many past champions: the likes of Sagaro, the only other triple winner, or Le Moss and Ardross, whose fame was to share as many consecutive runnings between them as Yeats has now won in his own right.

It is their intangible testimony, of course, that gives substance to his greatness – and purpose to those who been returning to this heath since 1711. The Gold Cup itself was first run in 1807. The inherited breadth of perspective is one no generation could achieve on its own, and one available even to the least curious bystanders here yesterday.

And for all the ripples of his genius that will spread out through the breed, thanks to the stallions he has produced for John Magnier and Coolmore Stud, to the racing public it is the perennial runners – first the triple champion hurdler, Istabraq, now Yeats – who have exalted Aidan O'Brien in the pantheon of great trainers.

As always, O'Brien was anxious to distribute the credit. "I can't tell you how privileged I feel," he said. "It's the people directly involved that make it happen, like the lad who rides him every day, Davey [Hickey]. The only time I felt this much pressure was with Istabraq. I was afraid of the disappointment for everyone if this didn't happen. It's not for no reason that this has never been done before. This is just a unique horse. He's made of different stuff. Of course, he's only flesh and blood, but to do this four times..."

O'Brien also paid tribute to the conviction Murtagh showed in committing when he did – at a time, sophists might wish to remark, when Patkai was trapped behind and still full of running – but Magnier had the sense to acknowledge the mastery of the trainer. "To keep a horse sound, and keep having him right for a particular day, is very hard," he said. "History shows that. To get a horse ready at this time of life – and he's a colt, not a gelding – is some performance."

To many, the years had finally seemed to be telling when Yeats ran deplorably on his reappearance. "But the trainer was always happy," Magnier said. "The Gold Cup is run in June, here, not at Navan in April. I think Aidan was of the view you can only ask him so many questions so many times, and it wasn't until the last two pieces of work that we really started getting the good vibes."

The obvious question now is whether Yeats will be asked those questions afresh next year. O'Brien seemed nervous of the prospect. "If anything was to happen to him, we know we can't replace him," he said. "He's so unique that I would be afraid of racing him after this."

Magnier deferred the matter, but there were grounds to wonder in the way he addressed the hope of seeing him in the Goodwood Cup next month. "Why would you stop now with a horse that's enjoying himself like he has done today?" he asked. "The people love seeing him, and we love going racing with him."

Asked to rank Yeats in his affections, after decades of achievement at Coolmore, Magnier gave a quizzical look. "He's a horse!" he smiled. But the tone would have been precisely the same, were he describing a star.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive - Graduate / Entry Level

£22000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital advertising infras...

Recruitment Genius: European Sales Director - Aerospace Cable & Wire

£100000 - £125000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Project Manager

£17100 - £22900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral