Epsom: Can Auguste Rodin Bounce Back In The Derby?

Auguste Rodin | Getty Images


   For once in these days of volatile climate, the sun is shining on the Surrey Downs and all the righteous colts assembled for the latest G1 Betfred Derby. Lester Piggott, who is commemorated by one of the card's handicaps carrying his name, was always refererred to patronisingly as the “housewife's choice” in the Blue Riband thanks largely to his association with Ballydoyle. Rosegreen's sacred establishment continues to support this mile-and-a-half Classic like a pillar of iron and 2023's chosen one is Auguste Rodin (Ire) (Deep Impact {Jpn}), whose attempt at Nijinsky's Triple Crown came to an abrupt halt in the 2000 Guineas. Of all the Longfellow's Derby winners, none had to conjure a magic-trick turnaround of this nature so Saturday's race carries that bit of extra intrigue.

What Auguste Rodin lacks in last-time-out form, he makes up for with a mix of reputation and juvenile achievement representing the trainer who has continually bent the accepted perceived knowledge of what is possible in this sport. After all, this is the stable that engineered a Slip Anchor-style Derby win out of Serpentine (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), a colt who had begun his career with a 16-length 10th of 11 in a Galway maiden. Auguste Rodin, the “special” one as far as all closest to him are concerned, has to go and do it himself now with O'Brien summing it up this week. “The Derby is the race where all the horses come together and then you find out, that's the way it is every year,” he said.

Passing It Down; Is Frankel The New Derby Sire Sensation?

In one of the last Classic face-offs between Galileo and Frankel, the latter looks to have a distinct edge in his bid to cement his position as the next go-to sire in this great race. Galileo's unbeaten son Artistic Star (Ire) hails not from Ballydoyle but from the Ralph Beckett stable and is a big outsider with experience in short supply, while Juddmonte's great supplies Frankie's grand finale Arrest (Ire) and more intriguingly also a sleight of hand two years on from his first winner Adayar (Ire). Unexpectedly, that emphatic Derby hero's full-brother Military Order (Ire) comes here with perhaps stronger credentials having won the Listed Lingfield Derby Trial his 5-year-old sibling surrendered en route. When Arthur Budgett's Oaks runner-up Windmill Girl produced two Derby winners in Blakeney and Morston there was a thought that it might not happen again, such is the implausibility of such an outcome, but we are potentially here again.

The 1969 and 1973 winners were half-brothers, so Anna Salai (Dubawi {Ire}) will be providing the race and her breeding operation with something unique if it again plays out right for the boys in blue on Saturday. Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby said today he is happy with the draw allocated to Military Order as he bids to saddle his third Betfred Derby winner. “He is always going to be going there with the tag as being a Derby winner's full-brother, so everyone is going to ask the questions of 'is he as good?' and 'where does he stand compared to him?' but he looks as though he is physically potentially more there and mentally more there than Adayar at this stage of his career,” Charlie Appleby said. “Regardless of that, Adayar went and won a Derby and this lad has got to go and do it now.”

Prepare For The Ride

Richard Kingscote has the chance to emulate “King Kieren” Fallon, the last jockey to win back-to-back Derbys in 2003 and 2004, on Passenger (Ulysses {Ire}) who carries Workforce-like vibes into this for the Niarchos Family so far denied a Derby triumph. Sir Michael Stoute's assistant James Savage was tellingly not averse to comparing the homebred with last year's winner. “Desert Crown and Passenger are different in many ways, but one thing they are similar in is that they are both clever horses that learnt very quickly,” he said. Like the 1993 hero Commander in Chief, he only appeared for the first time at Newmarket's Craven meeting, where King Power's The Foxes (Ire) (Churchill {Ire}) was running second in the signature race before their subsequent coming together in York's Dante.

An Instant Impression?

Surprisingly, given the intensely competitive nature of the Derby, both Geoff Wragg in 1983 and Roger Charlton in 1990 managed to win it in their first season training with Teenoso and Quest For Fame, respectively. Charlie Johnston is attempting the feat this time with a duo including the G1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud hero Dubai Mile (Ire) (Roaring Lion), who has the edge over the Chester Vase one-two Arrest and Adelaide River (Ire) (Australia {GB}) and very much over Auguste Rodin having finished 17 lengths ahead of that peer in the Guineas.

Sporting the colours of “Mr Derby” Ahmad Al Shaikh, whose outsiders Khalifa Sat (Ire) (Free Eagle {Ire}) and Hoo Ya Mal (GB) (Territories {Ire}) were second in 2020 and 2022, Dubai Mile's Derby success could well have been prophesied by his owner after greeting Hoo Ya Mal. “Next year!” he had said, so no pressure there then Charlie. “He looks great and it is all systems go,” the son of Middleham legend Mark, who fared no better than second in all his tries in the Derby. “The track as we know is a variable that will be an unknown until he has tackled it, but the trip is very much viewed as a positive.”

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