Can The Real Auguste Rodin Stand Up In Irish Champion Stakes?

Auguste Rodin and Ryan Moore | Racingfotos.com


He has become something of an enigma, but Auguste Rodin (Ire) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) has the x-factor most dream of despite his sharp falls from grace and has the ball in his court ahead of Saturday's G1 Royal Bahrain Irish Champion S. Adept on Epsom's lively surface either side of unequal struggles through the rain-dampened sod at Newmarket and Ascot, Ballydoyle's beau ideal has the aid of the current heatwave at a Leopardstown track that he has already mastered when on the rise as a juvenile. Whatever the reason for his white-flag moments in the 2000 Guineas and King George, this is a colt that has proven that he can truly shift when it rides on top and none will be finishing to greater effect.

Like all good Derby winners, Auguste Rodin has a nemesis in King Of Steel (Wootton Bassett {GB}) and Ryan Moore has his sights on that rival above all others.”King Of Steel probably deserves to head the betting given the way he beat our Voltigeur winner Continuous (Jpn) (Heart's Cry {Jpn}) at Royal Ascot and backed that up with a good third in the King George, but don't forget Auguste Rodin beat him fair and square in the Derby and he showed a lot of speed to win that day,” he said. “My colt obviously has a big question to answer after his lifeless run in the King George, but if he returns to his Epsom form then he has a big chance.”

Aidan O'Brien added, “We're really happy with him, the circumstances are all different for this. It's a mile and a quarter, quicker ground, he's drawn in rather than out and we've been happy with him since Ascot. There are a lot of things different this time. Ryan felt him come off the bridle early last time and didn't take a chance, he took the decision to protect him rather than damage him, which definitely wasn't the wrong thing.”

Amo Racing's game-changing King Of Steel, who at this stage could be argued has the edge in their private dispute having run a bigger average over their two encounters, is one of the best big horses of recent times and Ascot's mile and a half on soft ground would not have been his bag either. At least he kept fighting in the wake of the older, more seasoned boys up ahead and this, a qualifier for the GI Breeders' Cup Turf, is a golden opportunity to settle the argument once and for all.

Kevin Stott, who has been catapulted to the limelight by his partnership with this colossus, believes he is on the one with the bragging rights at present. “I wouldn't swap him for anything in the race and honestly believe he's the one they all have to beat,” he said on his William Hill blog. ” Going that slightly quicker tempo should allow him to get into a rhythm quicker and I can't wait to get back on board him again. He's been given plenty of time to get over his run in the King George and while it was a hard race, we think he'll have learnt a lot from it and I expect him to step forward mentally as much as anything here. He could easily go back to up in trip, but we feel this might be where he is at his optimum so the fact we haven't actually run him over it is something we are all really looking forward to.”

At this stage, the older horses hold sway after the big summer clashes and with the likes of TDN Rising Stars Onesto (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) and Nashwa (GB) (Frankel {GB}) in here there is no guarantee that the Classic generation will win out. Nashwa is probably a dubious stayer at this distance and has the QEII written all over her, so Onesto looks the more intriguing given that he was less suited to the easier ground 12 months ago than Luxembourg (Ire) (Camelot {GB}). He has arguably shown more in one run in the G1 Prix Jacques le Marois than that rival has in his major tests this term and this is undoubtedly the French colt's big moment.

Luxembourg has been so disappointing since his dynamic success in the G1 Tattersalls Gold Cup that it looks as if he is on the downward curve, while Shadwell's Alflaila (GB) (Dark Angel {Ire}) needs more than a fair share of Owen Burrows spell-casting if he is to jump from the G2 York S. to these kind of heights.


Is The Matron The Graveyard Of The Favourites?

Leopardstown's G1 Coolmore America “Justify” Matron S. is prone to surprise results, with five of the last six winners priced at 10-1 or bigger and two of them trading at 20-1 and 25-1. Perhaps it is the slight change of the season throwing the midsummer femmes fatales off track and bringing the autumn goddesses into their element, but this is a race where the formbook rarely holds water. With that in mind, The Aga Khan's G1 Irish 1000 Guineas and G1 Coronation S. heroine Tahiyra (Ire) (Siyouni {Fr}) is in the same boat that her opposing stablemate Homeless Songs (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) was 12 months ago as she returns from her sojourn in this “Win and You're In” for the GI Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Homeless Songs looked a “good thing” back then and faltered, much as Winter (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), Alpha Centauri (Ire) (Mastercraftsman {Ire}), Fancy Blue (Ire) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) and Mother Earth (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}) had done in the preceding renewals. This ground is as quick as connections of Homeless Songs would like, while Tahiyra needs to do more than she has in her last two races to justify short odds. Perhaps Juddmonte's unflinching Zarinsk (GB) (Kodiac {GB}) is the answer, given her relentless run of success in her native country, or the newly-blinkered Meditate (Ire) (No Nay Never).

Tahiyra's jockey Chris Hayes thinks she has what it takes to hold on to her mantle of leading 3-year-old filly miler. “She just finds everything so easy–she finds going fast easy, she finds going slow easy and there are no issues or anything with her,” he said. “I've sat on her plenty and she has strengthened up quite well–she's a stronger filly than she was earlier in the year.”

Moyglare Stud's Fiona Craig warned that Homeless Songs may yet be taken out of the Matron. “Homeless Songs is in good shape, she might be a week or two short and if Leopardstown don't water and it stays as hot and sunny as this and the ground is fast she probably won't run, but she's declared and we'll just see,” she said.


Can Shaquille Get Away With A Slow Start Again?

Saturday's third Group 1 is at Haydock and with the heat unrelenting the Betfair Sprint Cup is to staged on unusually fast ground which will not daunt connections of the seemingly-flawless G1 Commonwealth Cup and G1 July Cup hero Shaquille (GB) (Charm Spirit {Ire}). That said, his tendency to gift rivals a headstart might catch up with him eventually as it did the habitually stalls-wary Harry Angel (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}). In terms of sheer ability, the Camacho colt has a healthy advantage over a collection of sprinters that have found many ways to undermine their reputations.

Shaquille has undergone stalls schooling with specialists Craig and Jake Witherford and Camacho's husband and assistant Steve Brown is hoping they have got to the bottom of that particular quirk.

“You'd rather we had a conventional situation, but we haven't in his last two races. We've acknowledged that we had a problem, we've tried to do something about it, we're pleased with what happened at home and we hope to see that on the track on the day,” he said. “He looks really fit and well and everything has gone to plan. We planned four good bits of work, which he's done, and we haven't missed a day with him–I don't think we can have any gripes about his preparation at all.”

If there is one unknown in the line-up it is Peter Harris's Mill Stream (Ire) (Gleneagles {Ire}) and while his last two wins in Deauville's Listed Prix Moonlight Cloud and G3 Prix de Meautry leave him with a bridge still to cross, he is at least a young colt on the up with confidence high. One of the older brigade who has been at times frustrating is Cheveley Park Stud's talented Sacred (GB) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}), but she is at least still unexposed at this trip with her four outings over six resulting in a narrow second to Khaadem (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) in Royal Ascot's G1 Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee S. in June. She will love the flat track, fast surface and fast pace and this could be her day at last.

Sacred's jockey Tom Marquand said, “Going back to a flat six furlongs on fast ground should be right up her alley and hopefully we will see her back to where she was before. She has shown on so many occasions that she belongs at this level. Hopefully she can get the job done on Saturday.”


The Supporting Cast

This is one of the European season's finest weekends and Saturday's action is boosted by the appearance of Ballydoyle's TDN Rising Star Diego Velazquez (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) in the G2 KPMG Champions Juvenile S., a “Win and You're In” for the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf; and GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf hero Victoria Road (Ire) (Saxon Warrior {Jpn}) in the G2 Dullingham Park S. on the Leopardstown card. There is also Kempton's G3 September S., which sees the high-class Bay Bridge (GB) (New Bay {GB}) tackle a mile and a half for the first time, and G3 Sirenia S. where TDN Rising Star Eben Shaddad (Calyx {GB}) puts his reputation on the line for Prince Faisal bin Khaled and Najd Stud and the Gosdens.


Sunday's Fixtures Set

Sunday's Curragh card and the ParisLongchamp Arc Trials fixture were firmed up on Friday, with Aidan O'Brien suggesting that the stable's big 2-year-olds City Of Troy (Justify) and Henry Longfellow (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) could line up in the G1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National S. Declared alongside each other in opposition to the G1 Phoenix S. hero Bucanero Fuerte (GB) (Wootton Bassett {GB}), the pair of TDN Rising Stars would make for a stellar clash.

“It's possible they could both run,” O'Brien said. “Obviously City Of Troy would prefer the ground to be quick, whereas Henry Longfellow handles an ease but they are both in good form.” The stable's multiple Group 1-winning stayer Kyprios (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) is one of five in the G1 Irish St Leger, while their unbeaten TDN Rising Star Ylang Ylang (GB) (Frankel {GB}) heads the nine fillies engaged in the G1 Moyglare Stud S.

Last year's G1 Flying Five heroine Highfield Princess (Fr) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) has nine to beat in her repeat bid, while in Paris the eight fillies confirmed for the G1 Qatar Prix Vermeille include the starlets Blue Rose Cen (Ire) (Churchill {Ire}) and Warm Heart (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and Jean-Louis Bouchard's G1 Grand Prix de Paris hero Feed The Flame (GB) (Kingman {GB}) is back in the G2 Qatar Prix Niel.

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