Auguste Rodin Poised for Derby Double

 Deep Impact (pictured)'s Auguste Rodin looks to complete a Derby Double | J Fukuda

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Anyone privy to the sensational closing sectionals of Auguste Rodin (Ire) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) in the Derby will be approaching Sunday's G1 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at The Curragh with great anticipation of what he can do next. While Epsom's final three furlongs lend themselves to electric fractions, the 33.01 that Ballydoyle's latest celebrity covered them in is nothing short of remarkable and already places him in exalted territory among the very elite to have conquered the demands of the Blue Riband.

Now that the only marginally less brilliant King Of Steel (Wootton Bassett {GB}) has underlined at Royal Ascot just what an achievement it was to give him a start and run him down on the famous Surrey Downs, the excitement continues to mount that we are in the midst of a great one.

It is therefore vital that the talented and possibly under-rated White Birch (GB) (Ulysses {Ire}) is here to test his merit again and provide a true measurement of his trajectory. John Joseph Murphy's grey missile likes to hand his rivals instant advantage, but at Epsom he was notably rapid throughout the final half mile with his split from three to two out of 10.67 just a tick off the race's sharpest recorded by King Of Steel. Now on a more galloping track on ground which should play more to his strengths, Chantal Regalado-Gonzalez's representative ensures this is an Irish Derby with real weight.

Much will be said by Aidan O'Brien but as usual, the master of Ballydoyle was keeping it low-key pre-race. “Everything has gone smooth since Epsom,” he said. “That was his first time over a mile and a half and we didn't know how it would be, but we thought he was very comfortable and it has to be a good experience to stay at that trip again. Those horses at Ascot had more time from the Derby this year, which helped, but the form looks to be standing up.”

Murphy is understandably hoping that White Birch can make the same impact here as he did last month. “I was delighted at Epsom, but I think he could have been a bit better as he starts his races quite slowly and then gallops very genuinely,” he said. “He's a very sound horse, I don't think he's ever had a vet. He's very genuine, but he doesn't break well and I think he'll get better as the race goes on. He's lightly-raced still, there's only so many times you can go to the well but he likes his racing and likes his work–every morning he has a great attitude.”

Fourth in the Derby and denied a clean passage at a crucial time, Mohammed Khalid Abdulrahim's Sprewell (Ire) (Churchill {Ire}) still has to improve markedly to impose himself on Auguste Rodin and White Birch so the colts that followed him home at comfortable margins in Leopardstown's G3 Derby Trial, Up And Under (Fr) (Lope De Vega {Ire}) and Proud And Regal (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), should be readily outclassed. Aidan O'Brien has set this up tactically to allow the favourite to get into his crushing rhythm and the useful potential pacemaker Covent Garden (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) will presumably set the stage.

Straight Up?…

Of course, Ireland are not the only ones on Sunday staging a Derby, with the 154th edition of the G1 Deutsches Derby at Hamburg seeing Gestut Karlshof's Straight (Ger) (Zarak {Fr}) re-opposed by TDN Rising Star Mr Hollywood (Ire) (Iquitos {Ger}) following their mismatched encounter in Cologne's G2 Union-Rennen earlier this month. While there was a five-length margin between them on that occasion, Wanja Soren Oberhof and Sebastian Weiss's Mr Hollywood had been so impressive when taking Munich's G3 Bavarian Classic that Straight has to do it again for true validation.

Straight's owner-breeder Bruno Faust said, “We are very happy for him to have shown his quality in such an awesome way! He has the right genes, being very closely related to three German Derby winners, a German Oaks heroine and Derby runner-up plus this year's Derby Italiano hero Goldenas. For me, it was clear that he had the potential when he broke his maiden at two and he has continued to convinc e us. I also hope that he can handle any ground.”

Sebastian Weiss said of Mr Hollywood, “Our trainer Henk Grewe told us that he was a very good horse, but just how good he was we only began realising when he took the Bavarian Classic. We bought him without much planning, he was on a list given to me by Wilhelm Feldmann and even if it sounds like a cliche, I fell in love with him instantly. He had so much presence, he was such a good mover and athletic, if he would have been by Sea The Stars or Frankel, he probably would have been amongst the top lots, but we were lucky he was by Iquitos. I only know whoever wants to win this Derby will have to beat Straight.”

If there is one who could shake up the domestic team it is the Ralph Beckett-trained If Not Now (Ger) (Iffraaj {GB}). Bred by Gestut Fahrhof and bought at the BBAG September Yearling Sale for €67,000 by Jeremy Brummitt for Quantum Leap Racing, the relative of the 1999 Deutsches Derby runner-up Acambaro (Ger) (Goofalik) produced a noteworthy performance when winning a Sandown handicap by seven lengths on his latest outing. “He's done well from two to three and it was a good effort last time. He's a very straightforward individual and his owners were keen to have a go, so it all made very good sense,” Beckett said.

Unquestionable Faith…

Sunday's G2 GAIN Railway S. is always an important staging post en route to the following year's Classics, particularly where Aidan O'Brien is concerned, and there are three potential Guineas colts from Ballydoyle this time. Successful on debut in the Listed First Flier S. and a close third in the G3 Marble Hill S. here before finishing fourth and beating all on his side in last Thursday's G2 Norfolk S., His Majesty  (Ire) (No Nay Never) would ordinarily have been expected to be Ryan Moore's pick. That he is not speaks volumes for the regard in which the TDN Rising Star Unquestionable (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) is held. Third behind His Majesty as they made their debuts in the First Flier, Al Shaqab Racing, Coolmore and Westerberg's relative of Cityscape (GB) and Bated Breath (GB) looked so comfortable in the course-and-distance Tally Ho Stud Irish EBF Maiden at the Irish Guineas meeting that he has made a deep impression on Moore.

Opting for him over His Majesty and fellow TDN Rising Star Democracy (Ire) (No Nay Never), who was last of six in the Marble Hill, the rider explained, “There isn't much to choose between any of them. I do think His Majesty holds the best form claims of our trio heading into the race, especially as you have to mark up his fourth in the Norfolk last week and I think the return to six furlongs will suit him too but Unquestionable clearly has a lot of potential and I was very impressed by him when he won his maiden here last month. I think there is a lot of improvement in this Wootton Bassett colt. Democracy is better than he showed in the Marble Hill last time too.”

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