The Gold Cup, Ascot’s oldest race and Britain’s top event for long-distance thoroughbreds, has been dominated by one horse in recent years – the incomparable Yeats. The Irish-trained bay became the only horse in Ascot history to win the Gold Cup four times in succession when taking the 2009 race, making him arguably the best stayer of all time.
The Group 1 race, the second long-distance event in the QIPCO British Champions Series, is run over 2 miles 4 furlongs (4,000 metres) and is open to four-year-olds and older. It is traditionally held on day three – ‘Ladies’ Day’ – of Royal Ascot.
The Gold Cup certainly has royal connections. The inaugural running was watched by King George III and Queen Charlotte, while the 1844 running was attended by Nicholas I of Russia, after which the event became known as the Emperor’s Plate for a short period (the Crimean War may have had something to do with the decision to change the name back again).
The trophy is one of three at Royal Ascot traditionally presented by The Queen though she won the race herself with the Sir Micahel Stoute-trained Estimate in 2013 so it was presented to her by her son, Prince Andrew. Estimate tried again in 2014 but went down by a neck to the 2013 Ladbrokes St Leger winner, Leading Light, giving trainer Aidan O’Brien his sixth victory in the race.
The Gold Cup, along with the Artemis Goodwood Cup and Doncaster Cup, make up Britain’s Stayers’ Triple Crown. All three races feature in the QIPCO British Champions Series Long Distance category. The last horse to win them in the same year was Double Trigger, trained by Mark Johnston, in 1995.
Aidan O’Brien, the trainer of Yeats, claimed his seventh Gold Cup with Order Of St George in 2016.