1st4Auguste Rodin, 9/2
2nd7King Of Steel, 66/1
Aidan O’Brien repeatedly referred to Auguste Rodin as “unique” after watching the son of Deep Impact hand him a record-extending ninth Betfred Derby, but the most unique individual standing in Epsom’s famous winner’s enclosure was the winning trainer.
O’Brien, of course, would hear none of it, instead deflecting praise to what felt like every member of staff at Coolmore Stud and his all-conquering Ballydoyle training base, each of whom he named individually. But the facts don’t lie and, off the back of an abysmal run in the 2,000 Guineas from Auguste Rodin, O’Brien had defied history to win a Classic generally accepted to be the greatest test of a thoroughbred.
Dr Devious in 1992 was the last horse to achieve anything resembling what Auguste Rodin achieved. The Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained colt had finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby before winning at Epsom, but Auguste Rodin’s prep in the Guineas was considerably more modest, having been beaten 22 lengths in 12th at Newmarket.
While O’Brien stepped back from the plaudits, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, who along with Sue Magnier and Georg von Opel, own the winner, ensured their trainer’s achievement did not pass without the admiration it deserved.
“He’s a genius,” said Tabor. “His record speaks for itself. He produces the animal on the day to get the maximum of their ability. It’s not just once or twice, he regularly does it and that in itself speaks volumes of the genius he is.”
Smith added: “This was a great training feat. Aidan was happy to write the Guineas off as a non-event and the programme carried on. He’s won nine Derbys so knows what it takes but this was a great training performance from Aidan and a great ride from Ryan Moore.”
The fact O’Brien was never deterred from aiming at the Derby after Newmarket says it all about Auguste Rodin. Even last year he was talking about the colt as some sort of extraterrestrial and went as far as calling him the most “important” and “special” horse he has ever seen at Ballydoyle.
“He was very special as a two-year-old,” said O’Brien. “His movement was so good; spectacular. He’s got an unbelievable, economical way of going, but his movement is incredible. It’s very different and we always felt he was the most special horse we’ve had in Ballydoyle.”
The trainer added: “He’s totally unique; he’s out of one of the greatest Galileo mares [Rhododendron] by the greatest stallion ever in Japan [Deep Impact]. I think he’s the most important horse we’ve ever had because he’s bringing the two continents [Europe and Asia] together, and it’s not fake ability, it’s pure ability, so I think it is so exciting.”
Having been held up in the early stages, Auguste Rodin started to make his move from three furlongs out, although it was only inside the final 110 yards that he nosed ahead of King Of Steel and into the record books.
“I spoke to Ryan in the car on the way in and he said he was going to ride him on feel, and that’s what he did,” revealed O’Brien. “Maybe we would have preferred a stronger pace for him; the pace was slow and Ryan was back a good bit, so he had to cope with a lot. Usually when you’re taking your time and the pace is strong the pace comes back to you, but he had to go and chase the pace. Ryan said he had to quicken twice on him because he got there going too easy and then he had to go again.”
O’Brien revealed that the original plan with the winner had been to try and emulate Nijinsky, the last champion to complete the Triple Crown of the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger in 1970, but always felt the Guineas was the one that was going to be hardest to achieve due to his middle-distance pedigree.
“We knew the first one would be the toughest as everything would have to fall right for him and everything went totally wrong, but he came out of the race great and that was the massive thing,” he said. “It was one of those days at Newmarket. You control the things that you can control but when the variables that you can’t control all start falling against you, you can’t stop that. Every step of the way everything fell against him.”
Moore, winning the Derby for the third time, said he felt like he always had matters in hand, with the quicker ground compared to Newmarket a significant factor in his partner’s improvement.
“He got the trip very well and he was very comfortable throughout the race,” said Moore. “I felt like he was doing it easy. He always felt like he was going beautifully and I think this quicker ground is a big help to him.”
Both trainer and jockey seemed relaxed about campaigning the winner over either ten or 12 furlongs in future but the Irish Derby, a tried and tested route with O’Brien’s previous Derby winners, appeared the most likely next destination.
“He’s free of the [Triple Crown] shackles now,” said O’Brien. “The Curragh would be an obvious choice for him, but we’ll see how the horse is and what the lads want to do.”
After what the record-breaking trainer had just achieved, you fancy he could suggest a novice hurdle campaign and the Coolmore ‘lads’ would be happy. Nothing, it seems, is beyond the realms of possibility when it comes to O’Brien.
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Epsom Dash branded a ‘farce’ after four stalls open late and stewards take no action
Trainer David Evans has criticised the stewards at Epsom for failing to void Saturday’s Dash, calling the circumstances which saw four of the stalls open later than the other 16 as a “farce”.
While acknowledging stalls 16, 18, 19 and 20 had opened “fractionally slower” than the remainder, stewards on the day decided the chances of the four runners in those stalls were not “materially impacted” by the start and therefore took no further action.
However, Evans, who trained 11-1 chance Lihou from stall 18 to finish last in the race, was adamant the start had cost his horse his chance and was left in disbelief by the judgement of the stewards.
“It just doesn’t seem right that they’ve allowed the race to stand,” said Evans. “Those four horses didn’t have a chance. They’re all fancied runners and they’ve just let it stand.”
The stewards noted that Alligator Alley, drawn in stall 14, had anticipated the start, accelerated and broke open the gates shortly before the start was effected by the starter but again decided that horse had gained no advantage as a result of the incident.
As well as Lihou, 6-1 favourite Live In The Moment (stall 20), 15-2 chance Vintage Clarets (19) and 8-1 Ancient Times (16) were the other horses impacted, with Vintage Clarets in 14th faring best.
Evans added: “I can’t believe they can say it hasn’t materially impacted the result. But, even if they think that, they should reimburse all the expenses for those four horses, but who knows who would do that.
“My horse goes in late anyway. Hollie Doyle said he banged his head trying to anticipate the start. Then he’s seen all the others go, has gone himself and banged his head again. That was it then, he had no chance.”
Asked if he was planning to take any further action, Evans added: “Who would you make a complaint to and who would listen? No-one understands but it’s just not on. A big day like that and four horses miss the break on the fastest track in the world. It just seems like a farce and should have been dealt with in the proper way.”
Alice Haynes and Kieran O’Neill, trainer and rider of favourite Live In The Moment, vented their frustration on Twitter, with both adamant the stalls malfunction did have a material impact on their horse’s chance.
Sean Trivass, chairman of the Horseracing Bettors Forum (HBF), was in agreement, reasoning that punters who had backed Lihou, Live In The Moment, Vintage Clarets or Ancient Times had not had an equal run for their money compared to backers of the rest of the field.
“It seems a strange coincidence the horses from those four stalls never got involved at any stage and, under the BHA’s own rules, we believe the race should have been deemed null and void and stakes refunded,” said Trivass.
“It’s within the rules and the rules are there for a reason. It seems perfectly common sense to me and we’d like a better explanation as to why they felt it didn’t affect the result.
“In a five furlong sprint on the fastest track in the world, we’d like to see evidence to back up that the race was not materially impacted because the majority of the racing industry and the punters we’ve spoken to think it was.”
The impacted stalls
Vintage Clarets, 15-2, stall 19, finishing position 14th
Ancient Times, 8-1, stall 16, 15th
Live In The Moment, 6-1f, stall 20, 17th
Lihou, 11-1, stall 18, 20th (last)
The stewards’ report in full
The stewards reviewed the start, prior to clearing the race, and interviewed the starter who explained that the stalls were tested prior to the race, as per normal procedure, and found them to be functioning correctly. They therefore noted that Alligator Alley, drawn 14, anticipated the start, accelerated and broke open the gates shortly before the start was effected resulting in the rider, Jason Watson, becoming unbalanced. The stewards were satisfied Alligator Alley had gained no advantage as a result of this incident.
Angle Land, drawn 17, anticipated the start and accelerated the gates at the same moment as the race had been effected, enabling the filly to break quickly. The stewards further noted that stalls 16, 18, 19 and 20 had opened fractionally slower than the balance of the field and having reviewed recordings of the start in normal speed, were of the view that none of those runners’ chances were materially impacted, and they therefore took no further action.
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