Auguste Rodin powers to Epsom Derby glory for Aidan O’Brien

Trainer extends his record with a ninth win in the premier Classic

Aidan O’Brien equalled Lester Piggott’s record haul of nine Betfred Epsom Derby victories by pulling off one of his greatest training feats when Auguste Rodin landed racing’s ‘Blue Riband’ on Saturday.

After early season talk of a potential Triple Crown was blown out of the water when the regally bred colt was beaten over 20 lengths in last month’s 2,000 Guineas, O’Brien’s was a lone voice keeping faith in Auguste Rodin who he kept insisting was a “collector’s item”.

Such is the Irishman’s unparalleled record that public faith in his powers of rejuvenation saw the son of Deep Impact start a 9-2 shot rather the much lengthier odds he might have been were he trained by anyone else.

Once again that faith was vindicated on the biggest stage of all as Ryan Moore powered Auguste Rodin through the closing stages to overhaul the 66-1 outsider King Of Steel and win by half a length. Two other Irish hopes, White Birch and Sprewell, filled the frame in third and fourth.


Fears of disruption to the sport’s most coveted Classic from animal rights protesters were happily unrealised. One individual made it on to the track near the finish line as the race was being run but was quickly bundled away by security.

Instead, the 244th Derby was commanded by a figure who continues to dominate the great race like no other trainer ever has.

Only the legendary Piggott’s tally as a jockey can compare to the 53-year-old, who in 30 years with a licence has rewritten racing’s record books. Auguste Rodin’s success takes him to 99 European Classic victories with the promise of a ‘century’ through Continuous in Sunday’s French Derby.

“He’s the only man that could do it,” said Moore when asked to comment on O’Brien’s accomplishment in getting Auguste Rodin back on track following that Guineas blowout.

“I’ve seen him get horses back. There’s been horses that have run bad in the Guineas and have come back. Roderic O’Connor springs to mind and a few others. Even Qualify ran bad in a Guineas and came and won an Oaks. Aidan can just do things,” the Englishman added.

O’Brien characteristically deflected much of the praise coming his way and was keen to eulogise a colt sired by the Japanese stallion Deep Impact as “the most special horse we’ve had at Ballydoyle”.

If such labels have been handed out rather liberally to others in the past, there appears little doubt the ninth of O’Brien’s Derby collection seemed particularly special to him and the Ballydoyle/Coolmore team.

“All the people in Coolmore have made this happen, this is a total homebred horse. It’s all credit to them to make this happen every day.

“He came with a massive reputation as a beautiful horse but he kept stepping up to all the markers all the way, which is very unusual,” O’Brien said.

“He’s totally unique, he’s out of one of the greatest Galileo mares [Rhododendron] by the greatest stallion ever in Japan. I can’t tell you, he’s totally unique.

“Ryan said it probably didn’t suit him, he would have preferred a lot stronger pace but he said he had to quicken twice, so obviously he’s so exciting for us.

“I feel so grateful and so delighted for all the lads, everyone. It’s a great pleasure for us,” he added.

It was a third Derby for Moore who also commented: “We didn’t go that quick and it turned into a bit of dash.

“He was still a little bit babyish, I always thought we had the race won but I just had to get into him in the last furlong and he was very game. He’s done that quite cosy I think.”

Bookmakers cut Auguste Rodin’s odds to 6-1 for October’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, although where he pitches up next has yet to be decided.

“Obviously, these type of horses come here and if they’re good enough we often have a look at the Irish Derby,” O’Brien said

“But the lads [owners] make all those decisions. We’ll see how he is, tell the lads and they’ll talk about it, talk to Ryan, and then we’ll make a decision.

“I don’t think he had too tough a race as it wasn’t a strong early pace.

“The lads had the plan for him that he would do the three races [Triple Crown] and we knew the first one would be the toughest one because to do that everything had to fall right for him and everything went totally wrong.

“He came out of the race great, that was the massive thing. Every day, riding him work, he was just getting better and more and more confident.”

White Birch was recalcitrant before the start and a slow start meant he raced in last before staying on strongly in the closing stages to finish third for Colin Keane on his first Derby ride.

“It was a massive run. He got a bit worked up before he got to the stalls as you could see and a little bit anxious,” Keane said of a colt who’s likely to line up next in the Irish Derby.

“He was slow into stride again but I think that’s him, it wouldn’t have been right to rush him up because he can be keen.

“He was probably a bit further back from the pace than he wanted to be but he’s run a massive race for what he’s given away at the start. If we can work that out with him, he’s obviously a very good horse,” he added.

Sprewell also stayed on after a less than clear passage at a critical point up the straight.

Hopes Frankie Dettori might enjoy a fairytale Epsom finale on his last Derby ride failed to be realised and he reported Arrest was all at sea on the track once the pace increased. The colt also lost a shoe during the race.

“He took me to the straight and he had legs going everywhere; that combination of the left-hand track, the downhill and the track drying up. It is what it is,” Dettori reported.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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