03 June 2023

O’Brien lauds his ‘most important horse’ in Auguste Rodin

03 June 2023

When you have won the Betfred Derby nine times, you might start to run out of superlatives. But Aidan O’Brien believes the victory of Auguste Rodin at Epsom was arguably his most important as a trainer.

Cynics may point to the fact that O’Brien is bound to say that – his job, as well as training elite thoroughbreds, is to create the next great stallion.

However, there is no disputing the fact Auguste Rodin is not a run-of-the-mill Derby winner. His sire, Deep Impact, was arguably the greatest racehorse Japan has ever seen while his dam, Rhododendron, was a three-time Group One winner and second to Enable in the Oaks, making her among the best mares produced by champion sire Galileo.

O’Brien made no secret Auguste Rodin was not an ordinary colt, and in the spring was quoted as saying if he ever had a horse capable of winning the Triple Crown, this was it. Unfortunately the dream fell at the first hurdle in the 2000 Guineas when Auguste Rodin could only finish 12th of the 14 runners.

The trainer was happy to believe that run was too bad to be true and he proved that in no uncertain terms, running down outsider King Of Steel in the closing stages, with the pair well clear.

O’Brien said: “It’s been unusual with this horse from the very start, from when John (Magnier) and everyone decided to send a maiden mare all the way to Japan to be covered.

“Then when she was scanned in foal with a colt, all the way through there’s been hype and expectation.

“In all our measurements he was hitting the top all the way, that is very difficult for any horse but he did all the way, even before he came to Ballydoyle.

“I remember Ryan (Moore) coming to Ballydoyle in February when he was two and sitting on him and he said then that he was very special, so the expectation got even higher.

“He had a lovely run first time, won his next three and was then put away for the Guineas. We always thought the Guineas would be his toughest assignment so everything needed to fall right.”

Of course it did not. On soft ground Auguste Rodin never looked happy and a collision with stablemate Little Big Bear meant he never got involved. The fact Little Big Bear was able to bounce back from his own disappointment last week at Haydock will no doubt have given the team some hope, though.

“Two days before the Guineas everything started going the other way. His flight was cancelled so he had to fly the day before instead of the morning and circumstances just went against him, so we were happy to say it was a non-event,” said O’Brien

“That meant there was more pressure on him but we had to keep the faith. It was the acid test coming here today.

“We felt he was the most special horse we’ve ever had because he was out of one the best ever Galileo mares and out of the greatest ever Japanese stallion.

“I did feel some pressure because usually these days, they only go the one way and usually the more you want it to happen, the more they go the other way. We knew there were a lot of things out of our control that could go against him today, there were so many variables today especially that people were trying to control that could get out of control (the protests) – it was a worry for everyone involved.

“There was so much going on before the race but when this happens, I’m just so grateful.”

I'd say he's the most important horse ever for us

O’Brien, trainer of the likes of Galileo, Rock Of Gibraltar, Giant’s Causeway, Australia and Camelot, went on to say: “I’d say he’s the most important horse ever for us because he’s out of Rhododendron. She was one of the best Galileo mares and he’s out of the best Japanese stallion ever and we all know what is happening in Japan and we’re connecting that with the best of our breeding.

“This horse has everything. He has temperament, he has movement, he has a personality – he’s probably the most important horse we’ve ever had I’d say, because he brings the two continents together and it’s not fake ability, it’s pure ability. It’s so exciting, really.

“And how special was Rhododendron, we brought her here to the Oaks thinking she couldn’t get beat and then she ran into Enable, I mean could you believe you’d run into a horse like Enable!”

As usual in racing the question very quickly then turns to what next, but in this case it appears the Irish Derby at the Curragh appears logical.

“Obviously he’ll have the Curragh option but the lads will make the decision after seven to 10 days when we see how they are, Ryan will have an input, too,” said O’Brien.

“The great thing is he came out of Newmarket brilliant, so if he comes out of this as well they should be able to make a quick decision, the Curragh would be an obvious choice but we’ll see.

“I’d say he could travel, I’d say he will love that, he’s a pure 10-12 furlong horse. The Guineas would have bene fine had things fallen for him but it might be a blessing in disguise because we might be looking at the St Leger now, he’s free of all that now. There are no shackles now, the lads can do whatever they want.”

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