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?
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
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

Corporate Tax Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

Relationship Manager

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

£15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

£250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home