Aidan O’Brien’s Kyprios regains Gold Cup after classic battle at Royal Ascot

Trainer brings his record tally of winners at the meeting to 89 after Port Fairy lands Ribblesdale Stakes

Kyprios ridden by Ryan Moore (right) beat Trawlerman and William Buick to win the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot. Photograph: John Walton/PA Wire

A rejuvenated Kyprios meant Aidan O’Brien got the better of Willie Mullins when Irish racing’s twin titans faced off in pursuit of Ascot Gold Cup glory on Thursday.

Jump racing’s dominant trainer pitched Vauban into the historic stayers’ championship, only for his flat-race equivalent to emerge on top on ‘home’ turf.

Strictly speaking, British racing’s signature event in deepest Berkshire is no home game for O’Brien, although as Royal Ascot’s most successful ever trainer it’s hardly an away fixture either, similar perhaps to Mullins at Cheltenham.

Kyprios was a record-extending ninth Gold Cup victory for O’Brien after the 11-10 favourite emerged a length ahead of Trawlerman with Sweet William in third. Vauban started a 13-2 second favourite and briefly threatened on the turn-in only to ultimately fade to fourth.


Having won the Gold Cup in 2022, Kyprios returned from a potential career-ending setback to become just the third horse to regain the Gold Cup crown. Kayf Tara managed it in 1998-2000 but the context was underlined by the only other one being Anticipation over two centuries ago.

Having earlier landed the Ribblesdale with Port Fairy and brought his tally for the week so far to four, O’Brien’s Royal Ascot tally is now at 89, bringing into sight the once scarcely credible prospect of a ‘century’, similar too perhaps to Mullins and his 100 plus victories at Cheltenham.

As much of an anachronism as it is in elite bloodstock terms, Gold Cup glory still looked to count for plenty with O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore, who has passed out Frankie Dettori as Royal Ascot’s second-most successful ever rider on 83 winners. The legendary Lester Piggott rode 116.

At his strongest on Port Fairy, Moore’s balancing act of not getting to the front too soon on Kyrpios, but also making the most of his proven stamina, was the latest dexterous example as to why many consider him the world’s foremost rider.

Port Fairy ridden by Ryan Moore on their way to winning the Ribblesdale Stakes during day three of Royal Ascot. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire

“I said to Aidan that he’s the class horse in the race and he stays the best, so I’ve just got to get it right,” Moore said. “I didn’t get it quite right, but he still won.”

O’Brien described Moore’s spin as “masterful” and acclaimed the 41-year-old rider’s Royal Ascot haul. “It’s incredible for Ryan to have achieved what he has, and at his age, given he’s 13 years younger than Frankie.”

He added: “Every year Ryan rides, he gets better. He is the complete package and puts it all in, in every way – he is so committed, so straight, so loyal, so dedicated, such an athlete. And every year, he improves. He’s only 40 [sic] now and he will definitely keep getting better well into his mid-40s the way he is going.”

As with Auguste Rodin after the previous day’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes victory, both men seemed sincerely pleased for the horse too, hardly surprising considering a joint-infection last year threatened disaster.

“At one stage it didn’t look like he was going to live. Then it was getting him to stand, getting him to walk, getting him to trot, getting him to canter again.

“He always had the most incredible mind and that was his power, his mind. I thought at every stage it was never going to happen, we gave him a chance, and no one was in it for themselves. They were for him,” O’Brien commented.

Moore’s suggestion that a visor might aid Port Fairy got vindicated in style with a rallying neck defeat of the 20-1 shot Lava Stream. It was a fifth Ribblesdale for O’Brien, whose family bred the winner.

“Ryan said maybe try a visor on her at home, when she was coming here, so we put a visor on her the last day and her work really stepped up.

“She looks like she’d be a lovely Irish Oaks filly now, and she gets it well, she stays well. And Ryan was brilliant on her – he didn’t panic even when the second went by her. It was class,” O’Brien commented.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column