Jun 23, 2009

Yeats - When You Are Old You Will Win the Ascot Gold Cup...4 Times

ASCOT, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 19:  Johnny Murta...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Living, as I do, in a country obsessed with sprinters I sometimes lose perspective and forget that there are still places left in the world that value their stayers. Places that value breeding and training animals of great strength and soundness. Yeats is a prime example of such a program. His 4 straight win of the Ascot Gold Cup at 8 years old brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful victory. What a phenomenal horse. When I watch such a horse I feel a sort of contempt for the fragile, young creatures that flit about in the Belmont, grasping at the ground in front of them, desperate to simply finish.

He has made history twice - once for being the first horse to win the Gold Cup 4 times in a row and once for being only the second 8 year old to win the race ever. There is something of the mythic in him and I feel badly for not having known his story prior to this. I feel I often miss out on these types of important moments in history that don't fit into the modern American horseracing narrative.

And then, in the midst of my euphoria, I was a bit dishearted by this post-race analysis article: "Afterward, owner John Magnier of Coolmore Stud raised at least the possibility that Yeats would return to Ascot in 2010. He also talked of his horse’s eventual stallion career. 'The genes are there,' Magnier said on the Ascot broadcast. 'Not everybody wants to use a Gold Cup winner, but you need stamina in the breed as well. I know some breeders who are very interested in breeding to this horse.' Even though Yeats has won seven Group races at shorter distances, horses with his kind of resume usually end up as National Hunt (jumps) sires. Coolmore’s own roster of National Hunt stallions includes a number of multiple Group I winners on the flat."

Obviously it is depressing to think that his worth is lessened (at least in the flat-racing world) simply because he is not a speed horse, but rather a stayer. Look I get the whole argument for "speed begets speed," but have we really come to the point where a horse of his caliber could be shunned as a stud simply because he falls outside of the normal, modern range? How many times do we have to demonstrate that for every sucessful narrative that follows a traditional path, there are scores of outsiders that demolish all those rules? There is no 'given' when it comes to breeding. And clearly we aren't churning out scores of brilliant, tough, beloved-by-the-public horses. So, why aren't more people willing to step out of their comfort zone and take a chance on a once-in-a-lifetime animal?

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