Aidan O'Brien and Auguste Rodin © Photo Healy Racing
Aidan O’Brien puts forward a Betfred Derby trio at Epsom on Saturday headed by the eagerly-awaited Classic comeback bid of Auguste Rodin.
The Ballydoyle trainer has always spoken extremely highly of the colt — a horse he describes as a “collector’s item” as he is out of the top mare Rhododendron and by the late sire Deep Impact.
His two-year-old campaign matched his pedigree as he won a maiden by two lengths before taking the KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown and the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster.
As a result he was well-fancied for the 2000 Guineas after a Triple Crown bid was mentioned in early spring dispatches, but at Newmarket the three-year-old was denied an ounce of luck and trailed home in 12th after his race was scuppered early on.
That defeat did little to dissuade O’Brien of his ability, however, and the Derby was immediately lined up as a next outing after the Guineas run was dismissed.
“There were a lot of factors at Newmarket that we couldn’t control, but they happened and that was it, but we didn’t see anything to suggest we shouldn’t adhere to our original plan,” he said.
“That was always going to be the way, when we were running him over that shorter trip things had to happen. Every single beat had to go his way and obviously it was the complete opposite, every single beat went the opposite way. We were delighted he came out of the race so well, really.
“He’s a real beautiful moving horse, so the soft ground was always going to be a worry, and the trip was always going to be plenty short for him. He did need a clear run and when Little Big Bear got galloped into, he wiped out Ryan (Moore) and then Ryan ended up getting stuck in a pocket and there was no pace in the race.
“There’s so many things that went wrong, and we were going to fly out and that all changed, we couldn’t go two days out and we had to go the morning of (the race). All of those factors, either one of them could have been detrimental by themselves but it seemed they all landed on him on the day.
“He’s always been very special from day one, his movement and everything about him. Nothing has changed our minds about him, the Guineas went wrong and we put it down to a non-event for him. We’re just looking forward to seeing how we’re going to run like everybody else.”
The step up in trip to a mile and a half is expected to be of benefit to Auguste Rodin, as is the good ground that will be a contrast from Newmarket’s soft going on Guineas weekend.
O’Brien said: “Auguste Rodin was never going to run again over a mile anyway. He was always going to step up, he very much has a middle-distance pedigree.
“He’s a beautiful moving horse and good ground will be what he’d always prefer.
“He’s a very athletic horse, he’s close coupled, a very good mover — he wouldn’t break glass, the way he moves. We’re very happy with him physically, he’s in good form. He’s nice and fresh and we think he’s fit, that’s all you could hope for really.”
Of the horse’s exceptional pedigree, with his parents having won 14 Group races between them, O’Brien added: “Auguste Rodin is a collector’s item. He’s out of Rhododendron, probably one of the best Galileo mares ever, and by Deep Impact, one of the greatest Japanese stallions ever.
“He’s very unique and rare. When you get a horse that’s bred like that, looks like that, moves like that and has the ability he has is very rare, very unusual.”
Auguste Rodin will be joined in the race by two stablemates — Chester Vase runner-up Adelaide River and Dee Stakes winner San Antonio.
Of those two, O’Brien said: “Adelaide River, he’s a straightforward horse. He ran in Chester, the ground got soft and we don’t think he’s a soft ground horse.
“He’s an Australia out of a War Front mare and that would all suggest better ground. We think he does stay, he’d be happy to go forward and be ridden handy. He’s experienced and we’ve been happy with him.
“The other horse, San Antonio, he won his first race this year in Dundalk and then he went to Chester on soft ground. He’s never run this far but it will be interesting as well, his dam was second in the Irish Oaks and he’s by Dubawi so he’s a straightforward, honest horse too.”