Auguste in November as O'Brien Team Goes Sunny Side Up

Auguste Rodin follows Bolshoi Ballet on Thursday morning | Emma Berry


ARCADIA, USA — In case you're wondering, Aidan O'Brien had scrambled eggs for breakfast. That was just after he had watched his squad of ten take a stronger turn around Santa Anita's dirt track and before he had a chance to consider a second course at the lavish buffet by politely stepping outside to answer questions from a few annoying hacks, this one included.

Ryan Moore has been aboard Friday's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint contender Cherry Blossom (Ire) (No Nay Never) these last two mornings. “Is that a tip?” we enquired. “No, someone asked me that already. I'll show you,” replied O'Brien, digging his phone from his pocket and flicking past his selfies (just kidding) to find a photo of said filly throwing shapes worthy of the rodeo.

“She's not for kids,” said the trainer with a grin. “You need a parachute to ride her.”

Moore, evoking thoughts of the Man from Snowy River, never shifted in his seat, his kid gloves deployed with aplomb to ensure that there were no repeat antics from Cherry Blossom. She whipped them in as the dependable Broome (Ire) (Australia {GB}) led them all around the cambered turn of the main track, pretty much in age-descending order. 

As ever, the Ballydoyle horses on tour have been one of the highlights of a morning at the track. No other visitors have as many to go out together, and horses trained at Santa Anita tend to appear for exercise solo or in pairs. It is an arresting sight then, with the sun fully up as if to light the group to full effect, to witness this spectacle of almost synchronised breezing.

“They might have got a bit of a shock this morning,” said O'Brien, referring to the kickback for those in behind Broome, which included his fellow Longines Breeders' Cup Turf runners Bolshoi Ballet (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and Auguste Rodin (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}). “We didn't want to go on the grass today as it's plenty quick and [the dirt] opens up their mind anyway.”

Five of the pack, the youngsters at the back, will face the starter on Friday; the other half take their chances come Saturday.

With Cherry Blossom finding what O'Brien believes could be her optimum conditions in the Turf Sprint, she reverts to five furlongs for the first time since her debut, and is the first of the team to jump into action, hopefully not literally.

“She's a fast filly and wasn't really getting six at home, and this flat track should suit her, as well as the ground,” he said.

Content (Ire) is out of a fast filly in Mecca's Angel (Ire) but as her sire is Galileo (Ire), the mile of the Juvenile Fillies Turf seems more her go.

“She'll definitely get the trip, the fast ground will suit her better and she has a nice draw,” the trainer added. Tick, tick, tick for the last-start winner of the G3 Staffordstown Stud S. “Ryan will probably take his time on her and ride her for a little bit of luck. She needs to relax a little bit early and then she should run well.”

Ballydoyle is mob-handed in the final race of Friday's card, the Juvenile Turf, with the first two favourites, both by Wootton Bassett (GB), being River Tiber (Ire) and Unquestionable (Fr), ridden by Moore and Frankie Dettori. They are joined by Mountain Bear (Ire) (No Nay Never), the imposing mount of Dylan Browne McMonagle.

Of River Tiber, O'Brien said, “We think he's come right since Newmarket and he's rated 3lbs below the other horse but he was always a very classy horse. He should get a mile around here; it's a nice draw and a flat track and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does.”

There's something for everyone in Saturday's team. The three-year-old Aesop's Fables (Ire) (No Nay Never), who was just a length off Highfield Princess (Fr) when third in the Prix de l'Abbaye, is perhaps a little overlooked in the Turf Sprint, especially since the defection of Bradsell on Wednesday evening. 

“Ryan felt in France that if he had challenged the winner a little earlier he might have been even closer but it was a huge run from him,” said his trainer. 

Before that there's the intriguing puzzle of Cheveley Park Stud's Inspiral (GB) (Frankel {GB}) stepping up in trip while O'Brien's Warm Heart (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) comes back in distance for the Filly & Mare Turf after her victories in the Yorkshire Oaks and Prix Vermeille.

And it must be said, having been lucky to see her at close quarters over the last few days, it's hard not to fall in love with Warm Heart. Her demure demeanour clearly masks her warrior instincts, however, as O'Brien said of the three-year-old, “She doesn't lie down, she does fight. She has a nice draw and I imagine that Ryan will probably go forward on her. She has tactical speed and will get the trip very well.”

There's no doubting that the race most of the huge European contingent now camped out at Santa Anita is looking forward to the most is the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Shadwell's stud plans for Mostahdaf (GB) (Frankel {GB}) were confirmed on Thursday morning, while we already know that Onesto (Ire), also by Frankel, is joining Haras d'Etreham and King Of Steel (Wootton Bassett {GB}) will remain in training next year. What then for Auguste Rodin? If he knows, O'Brien ain't telling, but it is a safe bet that plans are to an extent contingent on what happens this weekend. 

Would American breeders appreciate another chance at the sire-line of the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic winner who got away, Sunday Silence? Or is Ireland the natural home for a dual Derby and Irish Champion S. winner? Could we even see Auguste Rodin race on next year? Time will tell, maybe as soon as Saturday night, but in the meantime, there is the prospect of an almighty tussle between four of the best horses in Europe and some smart Japanese and American runners. 

“Obviously we'd love to have him but it will be whatever the boss decides,” said O'Brien, ever the diplomat, on the subject of Auguste Rodin's post-Breeders' Cup future.

Of the immediate matter in hand, he said, “Rachel [Richardson] rode him this morning and was very happy with him. He cruised around on the dirt; he's a lovely long-striding horse. The plan was always for him to go to Leopardstown and then to come here. This is what we've been looking forward to all year. He's won two Derbys and a Champion Stakes and he's only a three-year-old. He really has done well since Leopardstown.”

O'Brien added, “Did you see him on the dirt this morning? He looks like a dirt horse. If you look at Sunday Silence and look at him they are almost identical.”

It certainly was a sight to behold, as Auguste Rodin stretched out over the track where Sunday Silence was trained more than 30 years ago. The colt, who can appear on the small side in the company of burlier sprinters, looks an entirely different animal unleashed at full stretch. The image of him extending past King Of Steel down the hill at Epsom is still vivid in the mind but there have been good days and head-scratching days since then in the career of Auguste Rodin. 

With no disrespect to his stable-mates Bolshoi Ballet and Broome, he's the one on whose near-black shoulders the hopes are resting. Maybe we'll get the chance to see if Auguste Rodin really is a dirt horse in next year's Classic, but for now his sole aim is to emulate another Ballydoyle star, High Chaparral (Ire), in taking the Derby, Irish Derby and Breeders' Cup Turf in the same season. Game on.


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