Could Sunday Silence's Grandson Close the Circle?

Auguste Rodin |


One way or another, plenty of people in our industry seem to think that it has reached a crossroads. But if a shutdown at the home of the Kentucky Derby makes us feel as though we can't get a break in the traffic, maybe we're just looking the wrong way. Because there's a chance that the real game-changing moment was happening 4,000 miles away, where the 244th running of the original Derby was last Saturday won by a horse excitingly equipped to open a new chapter in the story of Coolmore-and, potentially, new horizons for international bloodstock.

In Auguste Rodin (Ire) (Deep Impact {Jpn}), we have a Derby winner with the wares to help reconcile a debilitating modern division between the gene pools that produced his grandsire Sunday Silence, and his damsire Galileo (Ire).

If Americans have not yet granted this horse adequate attention, then his owner-breeders have an obvious solution later in the year. For if all remains well with Auguste Rodin, then the GI Breeders' Cup Classic would surely be a bet to nothing. Should he handle dirt as befits a grandson of Sunday Silence, then his exceptionally cosmopolitan pedigree really could be said to have brought together the best of all possible worlds. Should he fail to adjust, however, his stud value would barely lose a cent. (In fact, given the current morbidity about the future of dirt racing, the disclosure of an incompetence on dirt might even be said to enhance that value!)

The fact is that a stallion's career never depends purely on the inherent potency of his genes. If it did, true, Auguste Rodin would be in a very strong place, with the diversity of his pedigree standardized only by its seamless quality. But other things need to fall right-in terms of credibility and sheer narrative momentum-to maximize his opportunity. And that is what sets Auguste Rodin apart even from Saxon Warrior (Jpn), a promising stallion already at Coolmore, who shares as many as 13 of the 16 names behind Auguste Rodin in their respective fourth generations.

Because Auguste Rodin, besides being favored by some startling endorsements by his record-breaking trainer, raises an extra frisson of destiny as one of just a dozen sophomores in the final crop of Deep Impact. With even the most parochial and short-sighted breeders elsewhere now obliged to acknowledge Japan's increasing hegemony in the 21st Century Thoroughbred, the transatlantic market should be primed to embrace Auguste Rodin with a grateful fervor.

Deep Impact | J Fukuda

No doubt John Magnier and his partners at Coolmore first and foremost viewed recourse to Deep Impact in practical terms, having required a top-class outcross for all their Galileo mares. But just as when Scat Daddy proved a sire of sires, it also brought a latent opportunity to turn the dial.

While Coolmore has several effective heirs to Galileo, none can quite match the one that got away, Frankel (GB). But that will matter less with each pass of the baton. Say that down the line you sent Auguste Rodin a mare by Frankel's son Cracksman (GB), who had his breakout winner in the G1 Prix du Jockey-Club on Sunday: the resulting foal would be inbred 3 x 4 to Galileo. That's going to be a familiar scenario in Europe. But what compels interest in Auguste Rodin far beyond that theatre is the way such an international pedigree has coalesced to produce such a consummate athlete.

Very often, a horse's ancestors can only be credited with elite stature because of the sons or daughters that tie them into the pedigree in front of us. But just work your way down the fourth-generation mares behind Auguste Rodin, and you'll see that the potency of their genes has been corroborated by collateral distinctions.

Besides producing Halo, for instance, Cosmah was of course half-sister to the most important broodmare of her time, Natalma. Lady Rebecca, dam of Deep Impact's damsire Alzao, was a half-sister to Chieftain and Tom Rolfe. Fairy Bridge, here as dam of Sadler's Wells, was also half-sister to Nureyev. Allegretta (Ger), here as dam of the legendary Urban Sea, was also dam of one Classic winner King's Best and second dam of another in Anabaa Blue (GB). Highclere, herself a Classic winner, features because her daughter became granddam of Deep Impact, but another daughter is one of Europe's great modern broodmares, Height Of Fashion (Fr). And Rahaam also produced the Royal Ascot winner and stallion Verglas (Ire), as well as Auguste Rodin's third dam.

Okay, so a lot of people won't trouble themselves with that kind of underlying structure. They'll reduce a pedigree to blocks behind sire brands, and duly decide that they know what to expect when both Deep Impact and Galileo both displayed abundant stamina. The further seeding of Auguste Rodin's maternal line, meanwhile, may discourage international confidence, with second and third dams by European turf sires Pivotal (GB) and Indian Ridge (Ire).

But everyone should know Pivotal as an outstanding broodmare sire. And Indian Ridge's maternal family channels such old-fashioned, indigenous British sprint speed that you could hardly find a more vivid foil to other European elements in this page: the sturdy German family behind Galileo, for instance; or the profound stamina source Busted (GB), who sired Deep Impact's second dam. Unnerving stuff for American breeders, no doubt, but remember that Busted is by no means the only bottomless turf influence lurking behind sophomore champion Epicenter (Not This Time).

Auguste Rodin's third dam Cassandra Go certainly inherited the dash of Indian Ridge, winning over five furlongs at Royal Ascot, and she has also produced a dual Group-winning sprinter in Tickled Pink (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire})-who came to American attention last autumn through the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf success of her daughter Victoria Road (Ire), significantly from the first crop of Saxon Warrior.

Another of Cassandra Go's daughters, Theann (GB) (Rock Of Gibraltar {Ire}), was also a Group winner at six furlongs before producing not just Photo Call (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) to be a dual Grade I scorer on grass in the U.S. (later purchased by Katsumi Yoshida for $2.7 million); but also Land Force (Ire) (No Nay Never) to fly down the Goodwood hill in the G2 Richmond S. as a juvenile.

Cassandra Go's daughter by Pivotal, Halfway To Heaven (Ire), has proved well named as it turns out that her racetrack career only represented a beginning, despite winning three Group 1s. She had stretched her maternal speed to win one of those at 10 furlongs, albeit only just holding out, before then dropping back to a mile.

Certainly she had shown enough speed to remain monogamous with Galileo in her next career. Among their foals was the splendid campaigner Magical (Ire), who won 12 of 28 (seven Group 1s) between 7 and 12 furlongs, often proving too tough for colts; and also Rhododendron (Ire), who proved similarly classy, versatile and hardy, beating males in one of her three Group 1s and dropping back in distance after running second in the G1 Oaks. For her first cover, Rhododendron fortunately ducked under the wire to become one of the final mates of Deep Impact-and Auguste Rodin is the result.

Sunday Silence | Patricia McQueen

Perhaps some American breeders might hesitate about delving through this avowedly turf seam to retrieve the lost genetic gold of Sunday Silence. But it starts with a mare, Cassandra Go's dam Rahaam, who shows us precisely the kind of crossover that has been culpably abandoned since.

She was by an Epsom Derby winner in Secreto, albeit don't forget that he was by Northern Dancer out of a Secretariat mare from the family of Majestic Prince and Real Quiet. Rahaam's dam, meanwhile, was by Mr. Prospector out of a Dr. Fager mare-whose own mother was Kentucky Oaks winner Native Street. The latter, when herself covered by Mr. Prospector, produced the dam of both Dowsing (Riverman), winner of the G1 Haydock Sprint Cup; and Fire The Groom (Blushing Groom {Fr}), a GI Beverly D. winner who herself produced another top-class European sprinter in Stravinsky (Nureyev).

Rahaam had been co-bred by Calumet Farm and Stephen Peskoff before her purchase by Sheikh Mohammed, for whom she won a Newmarket maiden in a light career with Henry Cecil. Both Rahaam and her second foal Verglas (whose subsequent success we noted above) were soon culled from the Sheikh's operation, which did however retain her first foal Persian Secret (Fr) (Persian Heights {GB}) to become the stakes-placed dam of 11 winners. She has also consoled her mother's vendors as third dam of their G1 Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter (GB) (Teofilo {Ire}).

Nor, equally, will even Japan's stunning recent success on the international stage convince every Bluegrass breeder, based as it is in the patient development of bloodlines discarded by America and Europe alike. We can confidently state that Deep Impact himself would never have received commercial support in those environments, having never raced below 10 furlongs and won over as far as two miles.

By this stage, however, you would like to think that people might not be so obtuse as to deny a stallion's capacity to impart speed simply because of his own ability, in his first career, to keep going. Deep Impact has sired plenty of brilliant milers and we really do need to overcome this childish literalism about “stamina” being the opposite of speed. Very often, it is sooner about having the class to carry it.

Magnier clearly understands that, having shown no compunction about choosing Deep Impact for mares by the undeniably doughty genes of Galileo. Saxon Warrior duly had the pace to win a Classic over a mile, and indeed arguably didn't quite get home at Epsom.
Bearing in mind that Deep Impact only covered a handful of Coolmore mares, for a handful of seasons, the results have been staggering. Just a few days ago Saxon Warrior's brother, again from Deep Impact's final crop, won a Group race on only his third start. Between Saxon Warrior, Snowfall (Jpn) (G1 Oaks winner in 2021, by 16 lengths!) and now Auguste Rodin, from very limited chances the Deep Impact-Galileo cross has given Ballydoyle winners of three of the five British Classics.

Sadly the mysterious misfiring of Auguste Rodin as hot favorite for the G1 2,000 Guineas derailed Coolmore's hopes of winning the first British Triple Crown since 1970. Nowadays there seems to be a depressing reluctance for Guineas winners to try even the Derby and, at 14 furlongs, the St Leger is a commercial bridge too far for nearly everyone. It's a real shame, then, that his connections should have been lucklessly denied the incentive to buck that trend by Auguste Rodin's Guineas flop. Nobody, clearly, would now expect the horse to proceed to the St Leger regardless.

So let's hope that another great sporting adventure might be embraced instead, at Santa Anita this fall. Because it's going to take something that bold, and that special, to persuade modern breeders to renew the kind of transatlantic transfusions that once underpinned Classic pedigrees.

Remember that Deep Impact himself was one such cocktail: by a dirt champion out of an Epsom Oaks runner-up. Remember, also, how Japan has tested the mettle of his stock, with its program predicated on soundness and longevity. For that makes the legacy of Deep Impact still more precious, as we strive ever more conscientiously for a Thoroughbred physically equal to its tasks.

To be fair, he made such remarkable use of limited opportunity with mares from outside Japan that there are already one or two attractive conduits to Deep Impact elsewhere. At Lanwades Stud in Newmarket, Study Of Man (Ire) certainly represents quite a package at just £12,500, as a Classic winner out of a daughter of Storm Cat and Miesque. Only his second starter (out of a Galileo mare, of course!) impressed on debut at Leopardstown a few days ago.

And it's a curious coincidence, given how much genetic material they already share, that the third dams of both Saxon Warrior and Auguste Rodin should have resulted from visits to Indian Ridge in consecutive seasons back in the 1990s. Who knows how their respective futures will play out? But there would be no better way for Auguste Rodin to match his billing, as the anointed final bequest of Deep Impact, than to redeem his stable's agonizing near-misses with Giant's Causeway and Declaration Of War in a race won by his grandsire.

The Thinker, the most celebrated work of the sculptor for whom the Derby winner is named, actually started out as a small figure in another of his masterpieces, The Gates Of Hell. At the moment, everyone seems to think that we are parked right outside the latter. But if we can all be thinkers for a minute, then here's a horse with the potential to help put out the flames.

For it is precisely those virtues now so prized in Japan-an ability to carry speed, and the robustness to keep doing so-that formerly united Classic bloodlines either side of the Atlantic. Auguste Rodin could now just jump through the familiar hoops, banking low-risk dividends through the rest of his track career and equally at stud. Or he could become the horse to close the circle.

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