Aidan O’Brien sets new mark as Auguste Rodin returns to his brilliant best

Prince of Wales’s Stakes victory at Royal Ascot was trainer’s 400th Group or Grade One triumph on the flat

Auguste Rodin ridden by jockey Ryan Moore on their way to winning the Prince Of Wales's Stakes during day two of Royal Ascot. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire

Milestone moments revolved around Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore at Royal Ascot on Wednesday and yet both preferred to concentrate on vindicating the reputation of their Prince of Wales’s Stakes winner Auguste Rodin.

A colt that has mixed sublime with ridiculously bad in his career once again showed the wonderful blend of class and grit that characterises him at his best to score as a 13-8 favourite.

Only three-parts of a length separated Auguste Rodin from the French pair Zarakem and Horizon Dore at the line, but it was a priceless winning margin.

Despite a pair of Derby wins, a Champion Stakes at Leoaprdstown, the Breeders’ Cup Turf, and a Futurity victory as a juvenile, the regally bred colt’s Coolmore ownership gambled on continuing his racing career as a four-year old.


The immediate dividend was another dire effort in Auguste Rodin’s wildly inconsistent profile in Dubai in March, followed by defeat to White Birch at the Curragh last March, leaving plenty riding on it being third time lucky at Ascot.

Tailed off last on his previous Ascot appearance in the King George, this time Auguste Rodin was at his best to add another Group One to what is by any measure a stellar CV.

It delivered O’Brien a remarkable 400th Group/Grade One success in flat racing around the world and put Moore along Frankie Dettori on 81 Royal Ascot career victories. Only Lester Piggott has won more (116).

Moore’s public utterances have long been more aligned with Piggott’s reserved instincts, although this time the English jockey clearly felt estimation of Auguste Rodin required a boost.

The Prince of Wales presents Aidan O'Brien with an award for training his 400th career flat Group or Grade One winner after winning the Prince Of Wales's Stakes with Auguste Rodin at Royal Ascot. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

“He’s a great little horse. Okay, a few times it hasn’t happened, but there have been reasons every time. The King George was maybe coming after a hard run in both Derbys, which is a hard thing to do.

“He took me there, going very well, and when I asked him, he really showed great courage. He wanted to win. He’s a proper horse.

“He’s a Group One winner at two, he won four Group Ones last year and people are always very quick to knock horses. As soon as they get beat, they want to have a go at you. Every time you send them away [to stud] they have a pop at that as well.

“He’s been a real good horse and he did everything beautifully today – he deserved that,” Moore said.

O’Brien’s more scourging instincts when it comes to taking the blame are also well known, getting a particular airing recently in between City Of Troy’s Guineas flop and Derby victory this season.

The same transformation occurred with Auguste Rodin last year and the Irishman suggested it might be only now he’s got a real handle on the horse, despite only a handful of ex-Ballydoyle stars contributing more to the landmark 400.

“He gets a mile and a half very well, but when he gets to the front he waits, so I was probably giving him the wrong instructions all along. We were riding him too far back and when there was no pace, he was too far out of the race,” he said.

“I promise, I feel the blips were my fault, the instructions were wrong and it took us time to start getting it right. He has the action, the movement, the pedigree, the temperament. He’s very special.”

Illinois ridden by jockey Ryan Moore (right) on their way to winning the Queen's Vase during day two of Royal Ascot. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire

Part of the logic in keeping Auguste Rodin in training was a potential tilt at November’s Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt, a role apparently since taken over by City Of Troy. O’Brien conceded he hoped there won’t be any need for the pair to clash.

A sting in the tail for Moore was a two-day careless riding ban for allowing Auguste Rodin drift right-handed in the straight, causing the fifth, Royal Rhyme, to check.

Having drawn an opening day blank, O’Brien and Moore had earlier scored in the Queen’s Vase as Illinois led home his stable companion Highbury.

The result saw O’Brien equal the late Henry Cecil’s eight victories in the race and Illinois is set to be pointed towards September’s St Leger. Leading Light (2013) and Kew Gardens (2018) previously completed the double.

“We will probably take our time with Illinois and let him have the chance to develop the way he wants to.

“If City Of Troy wasn’t there, he’d probably have been pitched in much steeper, much earlier. Because City Of Troy was there, we were able to lay off those type of horses and give them a chance to mature.

“That’s what he is, he’s going to be a mile-and-a-half, mile-and-six horse and he’s going to get better from three to four. He is a bit of a baby mentally still, so he might have a little rest now and maybe go to York on the way to the Leger, something like that,” the trainer said.

Also on the double was jockey Oisín Murphy. He landed the Group Two Duke Of Cambridge on Running Lion before also scoring on the 11-2 joint-favourite Wild Tiger in the Hunt Cup.

Gavin Cromwell’s 50-1 outsider Mighty Eriu found only Leovanni too good in the opening Queen Mary, while the gambled on Ain’t Nobody pounced late in the Windsor Castle to score for Jamie Spencer.

Doha, a regally bred daughter of Sea The Stars and Treve, boosted her value even more with success in the Kensington Palace Handicap.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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