All Hail Yeats


For 32 years I was able to say I was at Royal Ascot to witness history. Well, it’s history no more. It was 1977, my first trip to Ascot, and I was privileged to see the great stayer Sagaro become the first horse in the 170-year history of the Ascot Gold Cup to win the 2 1/2-mile race three times. To do it in successive years made the feat all the more impressive.

Watching Yeats this morning break Sagaro’s record, storming to victory in the Gold Cup for the fourth consecutive year, it brought a sense of purity and timelessness to the Sport of Kings that has been lost in this country. To hear the Ascot crowd salute the Ballydoyle-trained 8-year-old with an ovation worthy only of true champions, it showed there still is a place in the heart for the long-distance runner.

The purity and timelessness I refer to is stamina, an inherent trait of the Thoroughbred that has been so consumed by speed over the past several decades it has all but disappeared. What trickle of stamina, or at least what resembles stamina, that does remain is frowned upon by owners, trainers, and especially breeders.

There certainly is nothing wrong with speed, which is the premise on which the sport was born. But there is more to speed than five- and six-furlong races or even eight- and nine-furlong races. As was written about Sagaro: “Sagaro despite being an out and out stayer had a blistering turn of foot and could give an electrifying burst of a rocket propelling in the air, at the end of two and a half miles.”

What has made this year’s Ascot meet so memorable and significant is that we saw history made at 2 1/2 miles by a European horse -- I emphasize horse (not a gelding), by Sadler's Wells -- and at five furlongs by American horses -- two distinct worlds coming together to form a magnificent tapestry of the turf. In addition to Yeats, we had General Wesley Ward lead an unprecedented army of 2-year-old sprinters across the Atlantic to put on a spectacular display of American speed in front of The Queen and everyone else hoping to establish Royal Ascot as a true international event. By winning the listed Windsor Castle Stakes on Tuesday, Strike the Tiger became the first American-trained horse ever to win a race at Royal Ascot. By winning Wednesday’s group II Queen Mary Stakes, Jealous Again became the first American horse to win a group race at Royal Ascot.

To then have Yeats win his fourth consecutive Gold Cup the following day, it not only inscribed two new chapters in racing lore it burned this year’s Royal Ascot meet into the hearts and minds of racing fans in Europe and America.

The resounding ovation given Yeats is what this sport is all about. We even had a slight hint of it in this country last year when the 10-year-old Evening Attire was given a hearty round of applause by the Belmont Park fans after finishing second in a gallant effort in the 1 1/2-mile Brooklyn Handicap. There is just something about watching a horse, especially an old horse like Evening Attire or Yeats, run his heart out at the end of a long-distance race that strikes an emotional chord.

I heard those same cheers in 1977 when Sagaro defeated the top-class stayer Buckskin, despite having fallen victim to his rival on three occasions that year. Also in the field was the previous year’s St. Leger winner Bruni. Buckskin not only had beaten Sagaro in three major stakes in France prior to the Gold Cup, he had annihilated him by 20 lengths in the Prix Jean Prat. But in France’s top stamina test, the Prix du Cadran, Sagaro had cut that margin to three-quarters of a length.

In the Gold Cup, Sagaro burst to the lead and opened up to the cheers of the crowd who were looking to witness history. It was if Sagaro knew the Gold Cup was his race, just as Yeats appears to know it. He drew off from Buckskin to win by five lengths, establishing a record that would last for more than three decades.

In a bit of irony, the horse Yeats defeated today, Patkai, had won one race this year…the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot.

I remember standing and cheering Sagaro with everyone else that day as the grand-looking chestnut with the attractive stripe down his face was led into the winner’s enclosure.

I couldn’t help but relive those memories and emotions watching Yeats charge to victory today and march into the winner’s enclosure to those same cheers.

So, here is a toast to longevity, perseverance, courage, and stamina.

As William Butler Yeats himself wrote: “Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before.”

77 Comments

Leave a Comment:

zipssecret

Awesome!!

18 Jun 2009 1:46 PM
longtimeracingfan

What a magnificent sight Yeats was before, during, and after the race... he KNEW he was supreme. His trainer, Aidan O'Brien, usually so sober and dour, literally dancing alongside the hose, his face split by a huge grin... an experience to treasure, even via TV...

18 Jun 2009 1:55 PM
Soldier Course

Any chance of a video being available on the website?

18 Jun 2009 2:13 PM
EmilioP

Steve,

Another great piece.  I agree with all you said.  In american horse racing television broadcasts the words heart, courage and stamina are used a lot, Ive always thought to myself that they dont necessarily fitted or applied to many of the racing participants in the telecasts.  Yeats on the other hand exemplifies those three words.  He truly is what the American racing fan pleads for.  A horse who has racing longevity and provides us with greatness year after year.  Yeats has earned himself a spot in racing history, but the most important thing he has earned is the spot in the hearts of racing fans worldwide.  I would also like to extend my congratulations to his connections, and credit them for all the work they have done, and for keeping him in training all these years for the good of racing, as racing would be a lot better with more Yeats.  Also I would like to congratulate Wesley Ward, John Velasquez and all of their american connections who went to compete at Royal Ascot. I am extremely proud as an american of their success, but I am more proud of the guts they show by actually going over there to compete, and of course later win.  I hope this is the beginning of more trips by american based horses going over to Europe and competing in the top events. That would definitely be great for racing on a worldwide level.  Again congratulations to all the connections, you should be extremely proud of what you accomplished, I know as a fan this is a week in horse racing, i will always remember.

18 Jun 2009 2:25 PM
Rob

Nice piece Steve.  Appropriate to as I think the Europeans may adminster a severe beatdown to the American contigent at this year Breeders' Cup.  Mastercraftsman, Sea the Stars, Fame and Glory they all should be licking their chops for this years running.  The 99 Speed Figure for Macho Again along with the 100 Summer Bird earned in the Belmont show how weak our horses are this year.  Outside of Rachel Alexandra who could compare to some of the great performances coming out of Europe.

18 Jun 2009 2:31 PM
Elaine

It was spectacular to watch Yeats win again!

But, with racing in the US, more than a lack of stamina, etc., it is the complete lack of racing awareness in the general public. While Saratoga and Keeneland have a special appeal, few (even sports fans) can name more than a couple of current race horses.

Unless or until racing regains a significant audience, Mine That Bird can run and win major races for 5 more years, and only the diehard racing fans will cheer.

But, let's not end on a depressing note. Royal Ascot is always the best week of racing in the world and Yeats is the crowning touch this year. All hail Yeats!

18 Jun 2009 2:34 PM
Karen2

Steve aka Da'man....You hit the nail on the head. If I want to watch a speed dual, I will watch quarter horses run. Thoroughbreds should be bred for stamina. That is what I want to see. The long, beautiful stride...the cruising speed and the ability to bring it on at the end of a race. I can't imagine why breeders, trainers, owners frown upon it. Except that most of the races are not designed for this type of horse anymore.

I love your quote at the end..."so here is a toast to longevity, perserverence, courage and stamina"..this not only applies to our magnificent equine hero's, but also to life itself for each and every one of us!!!

18 Jun 2009 2:35 PM
Tiznowbaby

Ah, just beautiful -- both Yeats' feat and your ode to it.

18 Jun 2009 2:37 PM
mg

Well done Steve. A fine tribute to a grand champion. I could not help but wish in watching Yeats today that we would return to some of those days when the old warhorses were the heroes of the game. Their legend and legions of fans grew with each passing year. The off to the breeding shed snydrome that dominates our American racing has left a tremendous void.

Cheers to Yeats

18 Jun 2009 2:42 PM
ALB

Is there a video available of this race and other races at Royal Ascot on Bloodhorse? Thanks!!!

18 Jun 2009 2:43 PM
Michelle

Great article.  You are so right, we just don't have those kinds of stars in this country anymore.  Personally, I love following the older horses like Perfect Drift, Evening Attire, The Tin Man and Brass Hat.  I wish we had more older horses performing at the top levels.  Too much of our racing is focused on the Triple Crown and the three year olds.  If there were major stakes for older horses we might see more of them.      

18 Jun 2009 2:51 PM
lobieb

I strongly agree with all the above mentioned..where is America's horse stamina.. gone to never see again and no horsess like Yeats to get excited about.  We wonder why horseracing is going down the tube, fact is the horses don't stay around long enough for anyone to get excited about and it's a shame.  Breed to keep the horses on the track for 4-5 years at least not sent off for breeding at 3 and no one knows who they are anyways.  So what if they run fast,what for a year, and then gone but I know it's the almighty dollar that is wrecking the breeding industry and racing.  Kudo's to Yeats and may he do it again next year.

18 Jun 2009 3:06 PM
shesfast

Is Yeats a gelding or a horse?

18 Jun 2009 3:11 PM
Steve Haskin

Shesfast, I forgot to mention that, and I'll go add it now. He's a horse and he's by Sadler's Wells.

18 Jun 2009 3:42 PM
kelso fan

How wonderful - I was keeping my fingers crossed being a fan of his sire and grandsire as well as of his.  Brings me back to the time when Kelso won 5 Jockey Club Gold Cups at 2 miles - we need to quit shortening our great races and breed for stamina.  Maybe even for the horses who have both speed and stamina!

18 Jun 2009 3:49 PM
Somethingroyal

Great article Steve!

I won't hold my breath, but, I'd love to see the Jockey Gold cup changed back to 2 miles.

18 Jun 2009 3:50 PM
Lady Ruffian

Its wonderful to have attention brought to a horse like Yeats who has soooo earned it. I wish that more breeders would recognize the importance of stayers and would breed more accordingly. Not only that, but I really hope that people realize how much more a horse can accomplish even after his/her 2 & 3 y.o years...

Congrats to Yeats!!

18 Jun 2009 3:57 PM
mz

Soldier Course and ALB: TDN (sorry, Steve, the competition?) links to Attheraces and has Yeats' run as well as all the other Royal Ascot runs pretty soon after they happen.  

Also, I just checked on the Royal Ascot site and it appears that they also have the Gold Cup up already too.  Try www.ascot.co.uk/racinf_video.html

And if you can, try to check out the Queen Mary and Jealous Again from yesterday.  I love those announcers: at one point, he says the filly "has blinded them for speed" and he also says "I don't know if they get them out of the stalls faster in America during training".

There, in a nutshell, is the difference between European and American racing.

Congratulations to Yeats and all his connections.  Steve, do you think we have anything over here to temp him to come over and give us a show too?

18 Jun 2009 4:06 PM
Tammy

I have been recording Royal Ascot to watch later in the day, but not today because Yeats was running in the Gold Cup! For him I got up to watch the race live.

Thanks Steve for your piece on this remarkable horse. Oh to dream for breeders to breed stayers and tracks offer races for them, The fans and racing in general would be better for it.

18 Jun 2009 4:06 PM
Bill

What a wonderful feat!  4 years in a row! Wow!.  That's a real tribute to both horse and trainer.  We have nothing to compare that accomplishment with in this country.  Too bad Yeats the poet still isn't around.  He would have a new muse to inspire him.

18 Jun 2009 4:24 PM
K. Robb

For those looking for the race,all the Ascot races can be found here:

www.attheraces.com/VideoConsole

Free registration required.

18 Jun 2009 4:45 PM
da3hoss

I was listening to John Magnier talking about Yeats, he says as long as the horse is enjoying himself so much, they will let him run again this year...he said that though Britain is becoming more speed oriented he has been approached by a number of breeders wanting to breed to Yeats because of his stamina influence.(and after Wesley Ward saying because North America breeds for early speed he felt he had a real chance to beat the later maturing Euros, I'm sure there will be an increase in the Continent to breed for speed so they don't have an invasion of Ascot by precocious NA young horses)

18 Jun 2009 5:51 PM
GunBow

Congrats to Yeats, Aidan O'Brien, and the Ballydoyle team. And thanks for the article Steve.

I actually had the honor to see Yeats in person in Toronto, when he ran in the 2005 Canadian International. The race was won by Relaxed Gesture, with Meteor Storm 2nd, but the also-rans were a who's who of European racing.

Crossing the wire 3rd, but later disqualified, was 04' gr. 1 Irish Derby and 05' gr. 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup winner, Grey Swallow. Moved up to 3rd was Godolphin's ill-fated Electrocutionist, dual gr.1 winner of the 05' Gran Premio di Milano and Juddmonte International. Electrocutionist came back after the Canadian International in 2006 to win the Dubai World Cup on dirt over the US warhorse, Brass Hat, among others, before running 2nd in both the gr.1 Prince Of Wales and gr.1 King George + Queen Elizabeth.

Finally, there was Yeats. Unfortunately as a fan, Yeats gave a subpar performance in the Canadian International. However, Yeats came back in his very next start, after an eight month break, to win the first of what is now 4 Ascot Gold Cups. Although Yeats did not race well at Woodbine, he looked absolutely marvelous in the paddock prior to that race, exquisitely turned out like most of O'Brien's horses.

While he did not win the same gr.1 race 4 years in a row, American fans should not be too quick to forget the exploits of Lava Man, the wonderful Cal-bred gelding who captured 3 straight Hollywood Gold Cups, at 10 furlongs, from 2005-2007. After winning his first Gold Cup by a stakes record 8.75 lengths w/ a 120 Beyer, Lava Man won the next two in courageous fashion, snatching victory from what appeared to be imprending defeat. I scheduled my summer trips to California around the Hollywood Gold Cup all 3 of those years, and rank Lava Man's 3rd Gold Cup win up with my most treasured racing moments(being at Belmont for Tiznow's Classic repeat is another).  

Making Lava Man's feat in the 3rd Gold Cup even more historic was that he was running on a synthetic surface after having won the previous two on dirt.  The 07' gr.1 Gold Cup win on synthetic also made Lava Man the first, and as of now, only horse to win gr.1 races on dirt, synthetic, and turf(2006 Charlie Whittingham). To top things, at the time Lava Man won that 3rd Gold Cup, he was also the two-time reigning Santa Anita Handicap champ as well as the reigning Pacific Classic champ. In the glorious history of California's 2 major handicap races, the Big Cap and Hollywood Gold Cup, Lava Man's 5 total victories is 2 more than any other horse. Throw in victories in the the Pacific Classic, Whitttingham,Goodwood, Californian, Sunshine Millions Classic, and Sunshine Millions Turf and I believe Lava Man was one of the most accomplished older male horses in Califronia, and possibly, US history(at least recent history).

18 Jun 2009 6:10 PM
Freetex

I couldn't agree with yours' and Yeats' words more.  

Yes, the closest we were to Yeats was Evening Attire. I am just glad to know Evening Attire is living his life.

I can't imagine how fantastic it would be to watch such a race as the Royal Ascot.

18 Jun 2009 6:15 PM
MonicaV

Steve,

Once again, a great column.  You are a terrific writer.

Horse racing in Europe is much bigger than it is here.  The only sports that are really popular here are the big 3...Football, Basketball and Baseball.  Horse racing used to be a big sport here but has been seriously waning in the last 25 years or so.  During the 30's thru the 50's and even to the 60's, the big horses running were pretty well known to most people.  Who didn't know who Whirlaway or Citation were or War Admiral and Seabiscuit?  Native Dancer, Kelso and Native Diver were well known because they were written about in the papers.  How many times do we see horse racing in the sports sections of the major newspapers or sports websites?  Triple Crown and Breeder's Cup.  That's it.

Then there was a resurgence in the '70's with the magical Secretariat, then Seattle Slew and Affirmed.  Those were iron horses too, they raced a lot.  Secretariat raced 9 times at 2 I believe or maybe 7, I don't remember.  We don't breed horses to be durable or to have stamina anymore.  Races are getting shorter and shorter and there are people wanting the triple crown races shortened.  

Unfortunately, this sport is in serious trouble of disappearing.  It really needs a shot in the arm and it needs horses to stay around longer and horses who can race longer distances and be sound.  I have no idea what the solution would be but I don't give this sport a lot more time if nothing changes and that is shameful for it has such a wonderful history and such wonderful past heroes.  Where do you find another sport where the atheletes are so determined and giving and so beautiful to watch?

18 Jun 2009 6:16 PM
David

Incredible stamina shown by Yeats. He won by 3 or 4 lengths and then it was another 15 lengths back to the third place horse. Amazing.

18 Jun 2009 6:37 PM
GunBow

helbelles:

You mentioned the horse Snack as a Secretariat look-a-like. The name Snack sounded familiar, and after looking in my notes, I realized I had seen Snack in person the night of the 2004 Indiana Derby(won by Brass Hat). Snack ran 3rd in the $40,000 Hillsdale(greatest Indiana bred ever), a restricted race for Indiana bred(or sired?) 2 year old males. I assume that is the same Snack you wrote about.

Do you live in Indiana? I actually drove down(and back in the same day) from the Ann Arbor area to Hoosier Park on May 30th for the $500,000 Hoosier Cup harness race. I enjoyed the fair atmosphere and the admiration those in attendance, particularly the many Quakers, had for the horses, drivers, and horsemen/women.

18 Jun 2009 7:03 PM
Greg J.

    Great Piece Mr. Haskin!, Yeats is truely Amazing, Five in a Row?, Here is the Youtube Video:

www.youtube.com/watch

18 Jun 2009 7:17 PM
Ida Lee

OMG!! Yeats is a gorgeous animal! And talent galore. I love these older horses. I'm always on the lookout for Better Talk Now, Commentator and Einstein races. There is something majestic about these older athletes. But, Yeats may be in a class of his own.

18 Jun 2009 7:21 PM
txhorsefan

Thank you for another wonderful article, Steve.  It's always such a pleasure to be able to read about a race with your perspective on it.  What an accomplishment for Yeats!  I was hoping he would win it, so I am thrilled with his fourth Gold Cup.

GunBow, thanks for bringing the exploits of Lava Man up for he is a horse I love and enjoyed so much.  Although he took a lot of criticism because his trips outside his home state did not always go so well, he was still one of the closest we have had recently of a stayer.

Please racing gods, let us have some horses we can follow for several years.

18 Jun 2009 7:26 PM
needler in Virginia

Steve, thanks yet again for another memorable piece. I felt the same as you when Yeats blew by them all, and cruised across the line. What a classy fella, and Mr Magnier's remarks about keeping the horse racing "as long as he's enjoying it" (did I get that right?) spoke to my heart.

After reading all the above comments very carefully, I can't find even one that condemns the older equine hero for running longer, NOR did I find one disparaging remark about the solid distance stayer. All the comments seem to support the concept of watching our favorites run past the age of 3, and most like the idea of the "aged" Yeats making history at age 8......good grief!! An entire horse running at age 8?? HOLY COW! What is the world coming to? A Thoroughbred older than 3 that can run, with distance, stamina, and a last burst of speed? That cannot be true.......SO WHO, other than the owners, wants to see Thoroughbreds running like rabbits? Quarter Horses fill that slot, and if you want to see them there are PLENTY of places to go and watch, or channels to which you can tune. I, for one, will continue to watch overseas racing with both joy and a sense of loss, and mourn the fate of the speedy, light, fragile American Thoroughbred which cannot, it seems, produce a real stayer........ except for the few mentioned above (and BLACK TIE AFFAIR is STILL my boy!). I miss them all, and you all know the ones I mean: they are too many to mention, but they are the ones we followed with great interest and seemed to know as family.

So let's hear it for Steve who puts us right at the finish line every time he writes, as well as for the Old Ones who warm our hearts when we see them do what they were born to do.

Cheers, and safe trips.

18 Jun 2009 10:01 PM
Paula Higgins

Great article Mr. Haskins. This is one drop dead gorgeous and amazing horse. A privilege to watch him run (on youtube). Another one for the ages.

18 Jun 2009 10:51 PM
Karen in Texas

Great commentary, wonderfully written! Yeats was beautiful as he accomplished his landmark victory. Thanks for the story, as always.

18 Jun 2009 11:27 PM
Skyfire

I am so glad he is not gelded.  If any horse has shown quality and soundness that should be passed on, it is Yeats.  Conflict: keep running or retire and pass on his strenghts?

19 Jun 2009 12:07 AM
Julie J Stewart

Steve - a beautiful well crafted piece about a magnificent horse and his connections.  It's so very thoughtful of you to include Evening Attire.  I had the honor of watching him race last year at Belmont.  I came for the Belmont Stakes and left with the thrill of getting to know Evening Attire.  Every person I met told me about Evening Attire - and the cheers told me how beloved he was.  

   Yeats race today was one for the history books as a thrilling chilling moment.  Thanks!

19 Jun 2009 12:31 AM
MtBFan (STILL)

"Is Yeats a gelding or a horse?"

...because geldings aren't horses anymore. :D

My dad's side of the family is Irish. :p So seeing--or hearing about--all the great Irish horses coming in is fantastic. Most of his family lives in Chicago. I was in Heaven @ Arlington Park, now I am following the horses even more. Murtagh is a fantastic rider, I hope he has a pint to celebrate :p

19 Jun 2009 12:37 AM
John T.

I never thought I would live to see a son of Northern Dancer sire the first horse to win the Ascot Gold Cup four times.''How Good It

Feels''.

19 Jun 2009 12:53 AM
SUGARBEAR

Ward took some 2 yr. olds to Ascot--one of them won--was that a graded race and would it count if he decides to run them in the Kentucy Derby  & how does one get the results that race, as well as purse money values if graded.   thanks..

19 Jun 2009 3:11 AM
American Dad

Several observations from the races at Royal Ascot, the nicest, cleanest and most well looked after horse racing facility I have ever been to:

Wesley Ward's 2 yos are monsters in comparison to the majority of the 2 yos here.  They are much more chiseled and in the case of Strike the Tiger, bigger.  The good weather available to trainers in Florida over the winter puts American 2 yos at a huge advantage in early racing.  The UK had between 8 and 10 weeks of poor conditions in January to March this year making prep of young stock very difficult.  So even with the move towards speed oriented sires in the UK and on the continent, lack of preparation will continue to be a problem in Northern Europe.  Several trainers have begun to look into sending young stock to Spain for breaking and training in an attempt to create an "European Ocala".  It appears that many of the French 2yos are ahead of the UK 2 yos this year, possibly because they had a milder winter, especially in the Southwest.

Speed is only part of the issue when it comes to racing here.  Obviously, Yeats has shown that you can be successful going 2.5 miles in Europe but many horses can get the trip.  Most of the them just don't have he turn of foot that made it possible to go from the pack to 5 lengths clear in what felt like 5 strides!!!  With the European reliance on chasing and hurdling during the winter months and the viable market for such horses, there will remain a strong demand for stamina influenced horses like Yeats in the breeding sheds.  Much like his Dad, Yeats will have a strong following in the jumping community, maybe not with young stock but certainly with a look at jumping in the future.  In addition, Sadler's Wells has crossed so well with so many lines making it possible for the good people at Coolmore to help make him a very successful sire.

The cost of bringing horses to Europe makes Wesley Ward's decision to bring horses a real gamble that may still not pay off even with his victories.  The cost to ship horses over and back along with yard costs, quarantine, and care while in the UK is probably $25K per horse.  So with today's exchange rate of ~$1.70 to the pound, Strike the Tiger made ~$37,600 for his win before paying the jock and trainer meaning that the owners walk away with less than if they won a first level allowance without the shipping, etc.  This is why you will not see the floodgates of American 2 yo maiden claimer winners showing up to Ascot in the future.  At least Jealous Again made ~$86,000 for her success making her trip well worth the effort but that was for a Group 2 victory.

As for Royal Ascot; it should be on any horse racing fan's bucket list along with Epsom, Aintree, the Curragh, Longchamp and Chantilly on big race days.  But because of the Queen's presence and the British sense of pomp and circumstance, Royal Ascot is special, very special.  But remember, bring the good clothes, racing in Europe is a special event and people dress up.  Morning clothes and top hats in the Royal enclosure and coat and tie in the regular enclosure.  Entry will set you back ~$90 per person for the regular enclosure, on par with going to the Kentucky Derby or Breeders Cup but don't expect a seat!

19 Jun 2009 7:00 AM
John Boudreau

What a DADDY Yeats is!!!Great Training job by O'Brien>>Also to Wesley W. with the Babies>>Great Prep. work in the US for the Trip>>

19 Jun 2009 7:59 AM
D in C

John T:

Northern Dancer, and his good Canadian breeding, rocks!

Another old 'entire' horse that I love is the good old American...Einstein.  I hope his owners try him in another Grade 1 dirt race this year for a triple surface G1 attempt.

19 Jun 2009 8:19 AM
Somethingroyal

needler in virginia:

I would love nothing more than to see stayers make a comeback in the states. I am so tired of seeing Thoroughbreds racing around like jack rabbits. If I want to see a Quarter Horse race, I'll do so. I've been a Thoroughbred fan since I was 13 and because of the mighty Secretariat. Perhaps the time has come for us fans to make our  voices heard with. The mindset with the breeders need to change so that we can live with the hope of seeing more horses like Yeats grace our tracks. For an 8 year old to do what he did is unbelieveable.

19 Jun 2009 8:25 AM
Old Timer

Excellent article Steve. Reading about Yeats again reminded me of sitting in the stands at Belmont as a young man and watching Kelso win his 5th consecutive Jockey Club Gold Cup -- at 2 miles. He broke the track record that day and he won races at 7 furlongs as well. This great sport has lost something when even the Breeder's Cup "Marathon" is now only 1 1/2 miles. It's nice to hear that, at least in Europe, there are horses who run at advanced ages and at long distance.

19 Jun 2009 8:50 AM
berttheclock

Thank you, Mr Haskins for your fine comments regarding stamina.  Interesting, that there has been another column about the influence in European racing due to the stamina of the German breeding.  As much as I enjoy some of the "lesser" tracks, it is a pity so many trainers at, say Emerald Downs consider six and a half a distance race.  They, also, bemoan any two turner written by the racing secretary because they say it takes too long for their charges do recover.

Thanks, also, to Gun Bow for writing about the great Lava Man.  I saw his dam sire, Nostalgia Star's early races for Mel Stute and Golden Eagle.  Lots of stamina produced from Pia Star.  Nostalgia Star won most of his graded money on off tracks, even his Grade I, was on a wet track, when Pat V took him to the lead and never looked back.  However, he broke his maiden in a 25 added at the old Los Alamitos Fall Fair meet by blazing in just over one twenty one for 7Fs.  Then, Golden Eagle sold him to the trainer/vet from El Monte.

19 Jun 2009 9:03 AM
Kay

I have had the privilege of seeing Yeats in the flesh winning the Coronation Cup on Epsom Oaks Day in 2005 and then again last year when he recorded his third Gold Cup win at Royal Ascot.  I love European racing and you see a lot of older horses running -- and winning.  We do have older horses running here, but not so many in the upper level races; more in the claiming ranks.  Spooky Mulder is one of my older favorites who has been up and down the ladder.

19 Jun 2009 11:06 AM
Old Timer

By the way, Steve, I forgot to add, that was a nice chronicle of the mighty Kelso that you did for the thoroughbred legends series.

19 Jun 2009 11:19 AM
Greg J.

FYI,

   Here is a link to the latest Videos from Royal Ascot:

www.ascot.co.uk/.../racinf_video.html

Also, If you want the latest results, Here is a link:

www.ascot.co.uk/.../racinf_lat.html

One of my Favorites, "Rainbow View"(Dynaformer/No Matter What) came in third in the Coronation Stakes, but she just ran 2 weeks ago, Lost to Ghanaati and  Reggane, I was surprised that "Again" came in seventh...

19 Jun 2009 12:57 PM
needler in Virginia

Somethingroyal.....OBVIOUSLY your ID rings bells for me. IT WORKS!! IT WORKS!!

Maybe with a little help from Steve, whose favorite STILL (I think) is the indomitable Dr Fager, we can begin to push and shove a bit. I do fear, however, that the day of the long-running, stout American TB is long gone; instead we have speedballs who either have to rest 3 months after the 2YO in training sales, or never run another lick. OR we are faced with light boned babies running their eyeballs out and never making it to a classic race because they remain ouchy for weeks on end or break down entirely before we even know their names. NOPE, speed is the king right now, at least over here; we'll be paying that price for a long time. Changes made in the focus of breeding take a long time to show up: gestation, foal, weanling, yearling, 2YO in training, first track appearance all add up to about 3 years before you can tell what you really have. By that time, the flavor-of-the-year stallion isn't so flavorful anymore, BUT has put multiple other similar babies on the ground. So where does it stop? Maybe it doesn't. We've put ourselves into the breed-for-speed market and there seem to be very few, if any, ways to reverse the trend. Along with all my doom and gloom goes the inevitable narrowing of the gene pool. THAT really doesn't help, either.

NOW, everyone go read the Blood Horse article about the German TB's who seem to be offering a fresh blood transfusion to the American branch of the breed. We're in trouble guys, and ignoring the qualities of horses like Yeats would be a tragedy beyond measure. Meanwhile, I'll watch the foreign races and smile.....

Cheers, and safe trips.

19 Jun 2009 2:05 PM
Freetex

Greg J, thank you again for the video!

19 Jun 2009 2:38 PM
lespedeeza

Mr. Mellon said, I paraphrase, that breeding Mill Reef was at the top of the list of his lifetime accomplishments. For me, a small breeder with nothing but stamina influenced mares, it would be to breed a Yeats. He is on my list, with Kelso and Forego, of legendary horses. I can now live another 20 years, hoping to see the next one........

19 Jun 2009 2:40 PM
Freetex

Yes, you can certainly see the difference in racing philosophy.

To Something Royal, so right.  Jackrabbits versus stamina.  I'll take stamina anyday.  

Also, what a great Bucket List item as American Dad stated.

19 Jun 2009 2:48 PM
Somethingroyal

needler in Virginia:

I hope people in the breeding industry take the time to read  blogs like this one. Perhaps they'll wake up before it's to late and start putting the horse back where it belongs, first.

19 Jun 2009 3:52 PM
helsbelles

Gunbow, thank you for honoring the wonderful Lava Man.  I still don't know how he got up by a flared nostril to win his third Gold Cup... that one gets me emotional because it was sheer determination and heart.  One more thing worth mentioning is that in his prime he would draw 40-50 thousand people to the track each time he raced.  That is saying something;  Zenyatta this year drew only a pitiful 8 thousand spectators.

About Snack, I read the article on BH about the newly created Snack stakes and I immediately remembered him.  Probably shouldn't have brought him up in the light-hearted movie context, but he did have Secretariat in is pedigree within 4 generations, and I think he resembled him looks wise.  IMO, he fell victim to the old Santa Anita dirt track in the midst of a miserable storm.  I think the winner of the Santa Catalina, Declans Moon, also suffered a virtually career ending injury that day, which could be used as an argument in favor of the pro-ride surface.  I'm just glad that he has a stakes race for 3-yr-old Indiana breds named in his honor.

And yes, Yeats is one beautiful, splendid horse!  And, that is one incredible feat he accomplished.

19 Jun 2009 5:11 PM
da3hoss

Greg J, thank you for the video link...wow.

19 Jun 2009 5:43 PM
GunBow

helsbelles:

I remember now. After racing in Indiana at 2, he was sent to Santa Anita for Derby preps. I was surprised to see the Indiana bred and/or sired Snack trying to make it to the Derby. However, I believe he ran at least 1 decent race at Santa Anita before suffering a significant injury. What was his ultimate fate?

19 Jun 2009 9:32 PM
GunBow

A possible side effect of all the new synthetic tracks is that they may force breeders to search for greater stamina influences. As with turf racing, speed is not nearly as dominant on synth as it is on dirt.  This is why the pace in most synth races is so much slower(and the Beyers lower), as many frontrunners will have difficulty winning unless they are able to set dawdling fractions.

I have very mixed feelings about the installation of synth tracks, but if it encourages breeders to seek stamina influences, then that will certainly be one positive.

19 Jun 2009 9:40 PM
Soldier Course

GunBow:

I believe that Snack died.

20 Jun 2009 12:38 AM
Soldier Course

GunBow:

Snack broke his right front ankle in the March 2005 Santa Catalina at Santa Anita, and had to be euthanized.

20 Jun 2009 10:15 AM
2 time valley player of the year

Yeats is a super horse and shows what a difference in breeding theory in America and how much better conditioned horses in Europe are then in America.You didn't mention the weight he carried which I believe was 130 plus pounds amazing.Also hats off to the sire the great and I do mean great Sadler's Wells who has sire 77 grade 1 different runners a world record!!! His offspring have won breeders cups and  won every major race in Europe multiple times, as a sire and in my mind one of the greatest sires and one of the best sons of Northern Dancer. No american horse would be able to do what he did because of the breeding and forgetaboutit for a american horse to carry anything over 126 lbs in a handicapp race.The great handicapping days of Kelso and DR Fager who constantly carried over 133 lbs are gone to the wimpy 126 max weights of today or trainers refuse to run if given more weight.One other thought aside from this subject Rachel running in mother Goose against a joke field of 3 yr old fillies , what competition is that for a so called great filly?Padding her record against fields like this is ashame.

20 Jun 2009 10:15 AM
balfour

Great piece Steve.  When watching a lovely horse like this come down the straight at Royal Ascot, it gives one hope that all will be well with the world. Bravo!

20 Jun 2009 4:47 PM
Greg J.

Gunbow & helsbelles,

     First Gunbow, Thanks for bringing up "Lava Man"!, I saw this on E-Bay, It is an incredible Oil Painting of "Lava Man" with Corey Nakatani on him by Judith Berkshire Jones. It really is a beautiful work of Art!, I am not interested, But I figured someone here might be?, Also, Part of the sale price goes to The "OLD FRIENDS THOROUGHBRED RETIREMENT HOME", Just thought I would let everyone see it, It is up in Two days and right now it is only $96 Dollars, Seems like a steal, Again, Even if nobody buys it, It still is a Great Painting of "Lava Man"...

cgi.ebay.com/Lava-Man-Original-Oil-Painting-Race-Horse-Art-16-x20_W0QQitemZ170344993856QQcmdZViewItemQQptZArt_Paintings

20 Jun 2009 5:42 PM
Port Stanley

8-year old Fort Prado won the Black Tie Affair Stakes at Arlington today for the 4th time. It's not Royal Ascot, but it is a $100,000 race.

20 Jun 2009 7:07 PM
Zookeeper

Yes, Lava Man...California's beloved ex-claimer. He was so exciting to watch, because victory wasn't assured. People bet him because they loved him and then kept their fingers crossed that he wouldn't dissapoint.

When he won his first Gold Cup, we were sitting in the box next to one of the owners. I cannot describe to you the expression on this young man's face when it became evident that his horse had a shot at winning. The sounds coming out of his mouth were unbelievable. Several stabbings would not have produced such agonizing screams. He was beyond elated...he was on cloud 50 and his enthousiasm was quickly transferred to us as we kept one eye on the track and the other one on this proud owner who had gone stark raving mad!

Unforgettable experience! Unforgettable, beloved Lava Man!

20 Jun 2009 9:25 PM
GunBow

Soldier Course:

Thank you for replying. Poor Snack.

Greg J:

About Lava Man, I'm not sure those in the East or Midwest understand how much fans in California love Lava Man. Because Lava Man ran so poorly outside of the state, he unfortunately is seen by many as a regional phenomenon.

For those outside of California, particularly those in New York, the horse I use as a rough equivalent for how Californians revere Lava Man is Slew O' Gold. Like Lava Man, Slew O' Gold was largely a "regional phenomenon". I'm sure there are some in New York gasping at such a comment, given the belief that races like the Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Marlboro Cup are national or even international events. My point, however, is that those races are no more prestigious or national than races like the Big Cap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic.

Both Slew O Gold and Lava Man won 7 grade 1 races in their careers; Lava Man won all of his in California, and Slew O Gold won all of his in New York. Slew O Gold won both the Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup twice at ages 3 and 4, the Marlboro Cup at 4(after losing by a neck at 3), the Whitney at 4, and the Wood Memorial at 3. He also won the Peter Pan by 12, and ran 2nd in both the Travers and Belmont.

Outside of New York, Slew O Gold did not fare as well.  He was 3rd and 2nd in the Sam Davis and Tampa Bay Derby, 4th in the Kentucky Derby, 6th in the Haskell, and 3rd(moved up to 2nd) when 3/5 and going for 1984 Horse of the Year in the first Breeders Cup Classic at Hollywood Park. Prior to the Classic, Wild Again's owners openly talked about how they had been waiting all year to meet Slew O' Gold outside of New York, and on a harder track which would play more towards Wild Again's speed and possibly rattle Slew O' Gold's brittle feet and hooves.

Deservedly, Slew O' Gold was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1992(?), and Bloodhorse ranked him #58 in their top 100. I'm sure there were a few folks out West surprised to see a horse that had won all of his career races in New York, and failed to win either a Triple Crown race or a Breeders Cup race ranked 58th while Exceller was only 95th and Cougar, Precisionist, and Best Pal were left off the list entirely. For those mainly Western fans who feel Slew O' Gold being ranked that high was a miscarriage of justice, remember that this is exactly how some Easterners respond when Californians make comments like "Lave Man is one of the 4 or 5 best horses of this decade" or "Lava Man is an all-time great and should be elected into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot".

Regional biases continue to be strong. In my opinion, there are few horses that provoke as many differing opinions, which largely fall along regional lines, as Slew O' Gold and Lava Man.  

20 Jun 2009 11:28 PM
GunBow

Port Stanley:

I second you in congratulating Fort Prado. It seems like Fort Prado has been running for more than half the deacde out here in the Midwest. Oh yeah, he actually has!

20 Jun 2009 11:31 PM
Johnny

I just loved watching Royal Ascot, the beauty, pageantry, Her Majesty the Queen, the charming dialect of the English and their graciousness to our American contingent. I thoroughly enjoyed the analysis by the British, and their insights. And best of all of course were the horses, running on grass, from five furlongs to 2 1/2 miles; and Yeats was the absolute high point of the entire meeting.

It was absolutely smashing! Well done and cheers!

21 Jun 2009 12:20 AM
silverscrngirl

somethingroyal: I agree with you about the Jockey Gold Cup.  We need more races that test the stamina of the thoroughbred and we need a change to stamina when breeding.  I would also like to follow a horse's career for more than 2 years on the national scene.  Most of my older favorites are locals, but I love seeing them and cheering them on.  

21 Jun 2009 2:34 AM
Golden Gate

Thank you Steve for telling this true story through your eyes. I wish we did have some one trying to get us longer races here. I am trying to breed more stamina into my own small herd of tb's but where would I race them?

21 Jun 2009 8:07 AM
Montauk Lite

Dear Mr. Haskin:  A toast, too, to the people like yourself who also have longevity, perseverance, courage and stamina .... to keep with this wonderful sport year in and year out, and to keep everything in perspective.  So many people think only of what they've just seen on youtube, so quick to declare a horse "the best ever," when people like yourself realize they are not just the video dujour but a thread in the fabulous tapestry that is TB racing. So much of racing is its tradition and history; and people like yourself with the long memories are vital to keeping this all alive.  Great piece on Keats ... and putting his win in the light of your 77 experience shows how truly special it is.  Thanks for tending the flame!

21 Jun 2009 10:06 AM
Ann in Lexington

A couple of years ago, a net-friend in Arizona and I tried to form a net-group to promote distance racing in the US. It fell apart due to internal bickering, then the BC Marathon came along and rendered us moot. However I continue to campaign for the restoration of classic racing in the US for older horses. Do you realize that there is no G1 race for older horses on the East Coast at 10f until the JC Gold Cup in September now that the Suburban (the SUBURBAN!) has been downgraded ? Disgraceful.

21 Jun 2009 12:56 PM
helsbelles

Zookeeper:  Great story.  Sounds like that might have been Jason?  The Lava Man documentary by TVG is very good (it came in second behind First Saturday In May in the Eclipse award voting), as it shows what a wonderful journey that horse took his connections on, and now they are repaying the favor by doing the right thing by him.  It's also another success story of horse people who started out in New Mexico, as it was Steve who pushed to claim Lava Man.  Mr. Haskin wrote:  "It was as if Sagaro knew the Gold Cup was his race, just as Yeats appears to know it."  The same can be said about Lava Man and the Hollywood Gold Cup.  The sport needs more lovable Lava Mans.

Gunbow:  I was trying to avoid your question, because it didn't have a happy ending.  To clear up something else you wrote, Snack never did win races over the Santa Anita surface.  He had just been purchased with high hopes by Paul Reddam, and his first California race for his new owner was the Santa Catalina, which proved to be a fatal one.  That had personal significance for me because I had kept away from horseracing for a while, until a friend lured me back with Smarty Jones' triple crown attempt the year before.  So, when I watched beautiful Snack's right ankle snap at the top of the stretch, it was a vivid reminder of why I had stayed away in the first place.  But, as you can see, I hung in there.  The story of Declan's Moon, the winner of that Santa Catalina stakes and 2-yr-old Eclipse champ, has a happier ending with the gelding being retired to live out his life on a Maryland farm.

Greg J:  Thank you for alerting me to that painting on ebay.  That would be fun to own a painting of a favorite horse.

21 Jun 2009 2:56 PM
Somethingroyal

Ann in Lexington:

Brovo to you and your efforts. I think we the fan need to stop and ask ourselves. What can we do to get involved? How do we get the  farms to understand that we want breeding the classic distant horse a priority?  

21 Jun 2009 5:35 PM
Abbie Knowles

I never had the privilege of seeing Sagaro or Yeats live but watched all Sagaro's Gold Cup triumphs and Yeat's victories on TV and that was so enjoyable.  Magnificent horses both.  If there is a better looking horse in training than Yeats then I have yet to see him!

Seeing history made is always special and Yeats definitely knows he is the Champ!  He was prancing around the paddock, regal as a peacock and was so proud of himself afterwards!  And why not?  What a superstar and what a hero!

Yeats you will always be revered as one of the greatest stayers of all time!  Maybe even comparable to Brown Jack!

Thanks old friend!

God Bless you

21 Jun 2009 6:32 PM
Greg J.

   "Can the ole boy hold on here?", That was the track announcers call down the stretch!, And, Yes, The old boy did it!...

    "Caracciola", The TWELVE YEAR OLD, Sure did it, He won The Queen Alexandra Stakes, Royal Ascot Day 5. Talk about Stamina, At 2 Miles and 5 1/2 Furlongs, It is the longest race of the meet.  What amazing Courage and Heart for "Caracciola"!, The oldest to ever win this race. Also, A funny thing, The Winning owner Piers Pottinger said, "We have banned Nicky (Trainer Nicky Henderson) from coming to racing when Caracciola is running in a big race, as he only ever wins when Nicky isn't here!" He sent Henderson fishing in the highlands of Scotland, though he did manage to watch the race in a remote cottage there, Too funny.

    So Congrats to both, "Yeats" and "Caracciola", Two Old Souls...

Queen Alexandra Stakes:

www.youtube.com/watch

21 Jun 2009 8:25 PM
Greg J.

helsbelles,

   Your quite welcome, I hope you purchased the painting?

Gunbow,

   Thanks for the comparision of "Lava Man" and "Slew O Gold", It is a shame that such obvious regional Bias continues...

21 Jun 2009 8:30 PM
Soldier Course

Greg J.:

Thanks for the link to the Queen Alexandra Stakes. Caracciola is remarkable.

21 Jun 2009 11:02 PM
Nancy

Dont forget Yeats won his only start at 2 and was unbeaten as a 3 yr old and favorite for the Epsom Derby when he had a muscle injury.  He also won the Grade 1 Coronation Cup at 4 over 1 and a half miles, plus an Irish Classic St Leger so he's all CLASS as well as brave and beautiful!  What a sire he'll make!!

22 Jun 2009 10:25 AM

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