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Yeats looks good for Gold hat-trick

Yeats last year became the eighth horse to land the Ascot Gold Cup for a second time in 30 years.

Tomorrow Aidan O'Brien's seven-year-old will be bidding to become only the second horse to land the race for a third time, Sagaro being the first in 1977.

Kieren Fallon was on board when Yeats won the race back in 2006 and in Fallon's absence from riding in the UK last season, Mick Kinane was an able deputy. Seamie Heffernan did the steering as Yeats put in a workmanlike performance in kicking off his season in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan and tomorrow Johnny Murtagh will become the sixth jockey to ride him in a race, as they make their first public appearance together.

Last year's Irish St Leger winner will, barring a big plunge on one of his 10 rivals, go off favourite for the two-and-a-half mile test where only Baddam can also claim a course and distance win after winning the Ascot Stakes at this meeting two years ago.

If there is a horse in the race to deny Yeats the title of favourite at the off for tomorrow's feature, it is likely to be the French-trained Coastal Path.

Andre Fabre's four-year-old is currently unbeaten from his six career outings to date but the big question mark is over whether or not the Halling colt will be able to be competitive with Yeats over four furlongs further than he has ever raced before.

While horses (like New Approach) are often expected to be capable of stepping up from a mile to a mile and a half, stepping up from two miles to two and a half miles is a much stiffer task. The manner of which Yeats is able to run over this trip is somewhat of a speciality and it is for that reason that Yeats is given a tentative vote to land the spoils from Coastal Path.

A horse who should not be overlooked is Jamie Osborne's Geordieland, who has a length and a half to make up on the pair's meeting in this race last year.

The seven-year-old proved he is in good form when winning the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup over an inadequate trip and if Yeats is not 100 per cent, Geordieland could indeed be the one to give him the most to think about. For the purists of flat racing fans, a two and a half miler may not be the most favourable of races over the week, but all evidence at the moment suggests that tomorrow's feature is set to be an enthralling contest nonetheless.

Comparisons are often made between Cheltenham and Royal Ascot. Cheltenham is to National Hunt racing what Royal Ascot is to flat racing, and both are the Olympics of their codes.

One man who has claimed many big honours at Cheltenham could indeed land a big blow in tomorrow's opener as Northern trainer Howard Johnson saddles American bred, South Central in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes.

Johnson is not really renowned for his runners on the level but he has managed to average 10 winners a season for the last five and is clearly able to produce them as he showed when South Central annihilated his rivals on his debut in a mediocre maiden at Carlisle. Thirteen lengths was the winning margin that day with the winner being eased down by Robert Winston inside the final 100 yards and although the quality of that race is nothing on tomorrow's opener, the Forest Camp colt gets the nod to deny Spin Cycle.

The Group 3 Ribblesdale Stakes is a tricky little contest to digest but Peter Chapple-Hyam's Cape Amber is selected to return to winning ways after being outclassed in the Oaks at Epsom behind Look Here.

By Cape Cross, the three-year-old was punching above her weight last time out and had previously finished the best of the rest behind the impressive Lush Lashes at York and this would appear a good opportunity for the Alan Munro-ridden filly to bounce back to winning ways.

The Hampton Court Stakes has an Irish challenge or two, headed by the Dermot Weld-trained Central Station and joined by Aidan O'Brien's leading Epsom Derby hope King Of Rome, who in turn was disappointing on that occasion earlier this month.

Central Station was four lengths off O'Brien's Hebridean at the Curragh in the Gallinule Stakes and on that run, and given that he may improve from that effort, Dermot Weld's charge is selected to score in the 10-furlong event.

Day one provided us with a winning banker in Henrythenavigator, today all eyes were on Bankable and tomorrow many people's bet of the day, or week, is Yeats.

As we reach the half-way point of the week, will we also see a rewriting of the record books and will it be a clean sweep for short-priced O'Brien favourites? We will know shortly before four o'clock tomorrow afternoon.

Ascot Gold Cup - Boylesports Bet: Yeats 6/5, Coastal Path 9/4, Geordieland 9/1, Sagara 14/1, Allegretto 14/1, Regal Flush 16/1, Finalmente 20/1, Le Miracle 25/1, Thundering Star 25/1, Diamond Quest 40/1, Baddam 66/1.

CRONIN'S CHOICE

2.30 South Central

3.05 Cape Amber

3.45 Yeats

4.20 Flawed Genius

4.55 Central Station

5.30 Allied Powers


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