Some people have no respect. Here is Yeats, his name long carved in the pantheon of great stayers, seeking a third consecutive Gold Cup. And here we have this French upstart, Coastal Path – unbeaten in six starts, admittedly, but still with plenty to find before he can usurp the champion. Yet all the money in the build-up to their meeting today has been for the challenger.
His backers no doubt saw Yeats scramble home on his reappearance, at Navan in April, and decided that the years are finally catching up with him. But they should by now be familiar with Aidan O'Brien's increasing propensity to let horses find their own way through a wet spring, and you can be sure that Yeats (3.45) has been trained with just one day in mind since he again outclassed his rivals for this venerable prize last year.
True, he was disappointing on his final start last season, in France, but he had just had a hard race in the Irish St Leger – a race in which he had previously been beaten twice. And his overall record shows plainly Yeats has never held his form into the autumn. Certainly, there was no trace of apathy in the way he eventually got the job done at Navan, and the word from Ballydoyle is he remains as enthusiastic as ever.
Coastal Path is a half-brother to Reefscape, himself fancied by the wiseguys before being thrashed five lengths in this race two years ago. Reefscape's sire, Linamix, routinely produces thorough stayers, but Coastal Path is by a less obvious source of stamina in Halling. His reputation is built on a series of half-hearted excursions over two miles in small fields, and today he must last a much stronger gallop against much tougher rivals.
Shane Kelly already has Ride of the Season sewn up after fooling Geordieland into winning the Yorkshire Cup, but the bottom line is that Yeats is the only runner classy enough to have a Group One prize over a mile and a half on his CV as well.
The card opens with a quick reappearance for Flashmans Papers, a 100-1 winner on Tuesday, but he has hardly had time to be hosed down and may well be eclipsed by his own stablemate, Elegant Cad. But another maiden, Skid Solo (2.30) could be worth a chance at big odds, despite twice being beaten in lesser company during the spring. His stable is in much better form now, and this faster ground and a tongue-tie could yield dramatic improvement.
Peter Chapple-Hyam has a more obvious candidate for the Ribblesdale Stakes in Cape Amber, but she must settle better than she did when sixth in the Oaks – one place in front of Michita, who kept on after losing her way down the hill. Jimmy Fortune perseveres with the latter, but preference is for the filly he has rejected, Dar Re Mi (3.05). She betrayed her inexperience at York last month but has been kept fresh for this, and will progress for the extra distance.
King Of Rome is tempting in the Hampton Court Stakes, having presumably shown Johnny Murtagh more than he did in the race itself when chosen ahead of the other Ballydoyle colts in the Derby. But Dr Faustus (4.55) has the physique and pedigree to build on the foundations he has already laid in just four starts.
His stablemate Flawed Genius must be on the shortlist for the Britannia Handicap, but the bookmakers also saw how unlucky he was at Haydock last time and there may be better value about Throne Of Power (4.20), a Group horse in the making. The other handicap can go to Missioner (5.30), whose relentless style guarantees improvement over this trip.
LEICESTER TONIGHT, results, betting, page 48
(Royal Ascot 5.30)
NB: Throne Of Power
(Royal Ascot 4.20)