19 June 2024

Tabor hails ‘very special’ O’Brien and Auguste Rodin after milestone success

19 June 2024

A landmark occasion requires a special horse, and when it mattered most, Auguste Rodin delivered in style as Aidan O’Brien masterfully saddled his 400th Group/Grade One winner on the Flat on day two at Royal Ascot.

If you are going to shatter another glass ceiling, then there is no finer place to do it than in one of the biggest races during the biggest week in the racing calendar.

And in Auguste Rodin, O’Brien had an ally that perhaps exemplifies his training talents better than any other in recent history.

He bounced back from Guineas disappointment to win the Derby, while a summer blip at this very track in the King George was quickly erased in the Irish Champion Stakes and at the Breeders’ Cup.

Now, early-season reversals at both Meydan and the Curragh are long forgotten as he struck in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, on the most regal stage of all.

The son of Deep Impact runs in the colours of Michael Tabor, who is no stranger to leading in big-race winners trained by O’Brien, but he was in no doubt about the quality of the latest to bear his famous orange and blue silks.

“He throws in the occasional wobbly, as we all know, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but he’s a special horse,” said Tabor.

“He has to be in the High Chaparral territory. If you think of all the horses in my colours, Montjeu springs to mind and Thunder Gulch, my Kentucky Derby winner, there has been a few of them thankfully, but when you have a horse like this, you never get tired of it and it is such a great feeling when he hits the front.”

If Auguste Rodin is a special horse, then what can be said about the man in the Ballydoyle cockpit, successfully steering one of Flat racing’s most successful operations?

As one of ‘the lads’ who entrusts O’Brien with the keys to the Coolmore empire, Tabor is in no doubt about what qualities come to the fore with the 54-year-old at the helm.

Like anything in life, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and he just does it time and again

“What adjectives can you use, he’s just very special,” continued Tabor.

“He’s a very patient, polite man, who is a great trainer, which goes without saying. He’s genuinely a nice person as well, he really is.

“Like anything in life, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and he just does it time and again.”

For O’Brien himself, it was far from just another day at the office, but one he is determined to savour.

He said: “I don’t ever think ahead. I always say ‘forget about yesterday, don’t think about tomorrow and just try to survive now’. I try not to think too far ahead, because that’s when you get anxious.

“There is no point thinking about the past because it is gone and it is important to just try to stay in the minute and keep working one day at a time and appreciate it, because it is very hard for those horses to win.

“There are so many things that have to fall right for you and so many people have to work so hard, so I’m just incredibly grateful, really.”

Among his 400 winners at the highest level is a record number of victories in both the Derby and the Oaks, while in 2012 he gave his son Joseph the leg-up aboard Camelot to become the first father-son trainer-jockey duo to succeed in the premier Classic at Epsom.

In fact, he also saddled his other son Donnacha to taste Classic success – special days to remember even for a man who has consistently been the standard-setter in the sport.

“They were incredible days and I can’t actually believe those days did happen,” added O’Brien.

“Those lads rode very well and they were very young and they took all the pressure of such a big job as only kids. They took that and they were days you can never expect to happen, but they made it happen, it was unbelievable.

“There have been so many special days, all the Derbys and all the winners here every year are special, there are so many of those great days, with horses like City Of Troy and this horse. There are so many and it is so hard to pick just one or two out, but they are all special.”

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