Two-time champion Westerner, runner-up in last year's 2 1/2-mile Ascot Gold Cup (Eng-I), held on to defeat Irish-bred Distinction in this year's renewal by a neck Thursday afternoon at the Royal Ascot meeting at York. The first two across the line are both sons of the late Danehill, sire of 287 stakes winners worldwide.
Westerner, bred in England by Dayton Investments, races for Ecurie Wildenstein. Out of the Troy mare Walensee, the 6-year-old horse was ridden to victory by Olivier Peslier. Distinction, out of the Nureyev mare Ivy Leaf, races for Highclere Thoroughbred Racing and had James Murtagh aboard.
Finishing third, five lengths back, was champion Vinnie Roe, a 7-year-old who won the Irish St Leger (Ire-I) four years running (2001-04).
Trained in France by Elie Lellouche, Westerner was eighth early in the 17-horse field before moving up to third place two furlongs from home. He took the lead before the field hit the final furlong and he held off Distinction in the final yards. The 7-4 favorite in the field, Westerner covered the distance in 4:19.49.
Champion stayer (14 furlongs and up) in France in 2003 and 2004, Westerner came to York off an easy five-length victory in the 1 7/8-mile Prix Vicomtesse Vigier (Fr-II) at Longhcamp May 22.
Distinction, sent off at 33-1 in the Gold Cup is trained by Michael Stoute. He was bred by Orpendale and Minch Bloodstock. A minor stakes winner last year, he shipped from Europe last fall to run in the Emirates Melbourne Cup (Aust-I) where he finished sixth of 24 in the near-two-mile race.
Vinnie Roe, second in the Melbourne Cup last November, was sent off at 9-2. He ran second in the 2002 renewal of the Ascot Gold Cup. By Definite Article out of the Tap on Wood mare Kayu, Vinnie Roe was bred in Ireland by Virginia Moeran.