The real Auguste Rodin stands up and delivers at Royal Ascot

Aidan O'Brien scores his 400th career Group One win with Prince of Wales Stakes victory

Horse Racing - Royal Ascot 2024 - Ascot Racecourse, Ascot, Britain - June 19, 2024 Auguste Rodin ridden by Auguste Rodin in action before winning the 16:25 Prince Of Wales's Stakes Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge
Auguste Rodin ridden by Auguste Rodin in action before winning the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot (Reuters via Beat Media Group subscription)

By James Toney at Royal Ascot

Will the real Rodin please stand up asked the critics - and how he responded.

Surely it's time to stop the questions and admit that Auguste Rodin might just be as brilliant as he is quirky.

With six Group One victories to his name, following a Royal Ascot success in Wednesday's showpiece Prince of Wales's Stakes, the double Derby winner is something special even in the pantheon of legends trained by the mercurial Aidan O'Brien.

You need breeding in this sport to be successful—his sire, Deep Impact, was arguably the greatest racehorse Japan has ever seen, while his dam, Rhododendron, was a three-time Group One winner—but you also need guts.

And Auguste Rodin showed all those battling instincts to hold off a pair of French raiders, Zarakem and Horizon Dore, in a thrilling finish that won't be forgotten in a hurry.

"We’re so delighted for everybody, he's a very special horse to us all," said O'Brien, who is as deft at deflecting praise as he is at landing big race winners.

"I've always felt the blips in his career were my fault, the instructions were wrong. When he gets to the front you know he's hard to beat. We changed everything and Ryan said he was going to be positive on him."

However, what the racing world really wants to know is whether O'Brien's connections will give us the showdown of all showdowns - pitching Auguste Rodin against brilliant Epsom winner City of Troy.

“The lads will decide that," added O'Brien. "I’m hoping that there will never be any need. When those horses come along like that, it’s to try to pick slots for them, space them out, appreciate them and enjoy them.

"Whether he goes to America, whether he stays around here. I think now we are more confident that we have worked him out. It’s his high tempo, his high cruise and we saw that he does wait when he gets there, and then he goes again.

"These are just lovely things to think about and I'm so grateful for the opportunities I have, there are so many people I don’t mention every day, the people in the farm, the people in the office. I’m so grateful to them all for making this happen."

Ryan Moore gave Auguste Rodin the perfect ride, judging his kick for home to perfection, the optimum execution of a well-drilled race plan and the best way possible to move the jockey level with Frankie Dettori in the all-time standings with 81 victories.

O'Brien drew a blank on Tuesday, but you don't keep Ballydoyle down for long, in this floral corner of Berkshire, the lads from Ballydoyle and Coolmore have made a home from home.

They got themselves off the mark as they brought home an Irish 1-2-3 in the Queen's Vase, Illinois holding off stablemate Highbury and Jessica Harrington's Birdman.

You could sense the pressure in the moments before the race: which horse would turn up? The one that flopped in the Guineas under the weight of superlatives and expectation or the champion that delivered at Epsom, the Curragh, and the Breeders' Cup.

Just over two rattling minutes later, we had our emphatic answer.

"He’s a great little horse. A few times it hasn’t happened and there’s been reasons every time," said Moore, Auguste Rodin's win his 81st career success at Royal Ascot, moving him level with Frankie Dettori.
"He showed great courage and put his head down and wanted to win. He’s a fantastic horse, a proper horse. He’s been a real good horse and he deserved that.

"People are always very quick to knock horses. We kept the Derby winner in training and everyone, as soon as they get beat, they want to have a go at you. But as soon as you send them away to stud they have a pop at that too, you can never keep people happy."

It was somewhat fitting this was O'Brien's 400th Group One success—a thread that runs from Desert King's win in the National Stakes at the Curragh in 1996 to this latest act of genius.

O'Brien and Moore will get the headline praise but a special mention must go to loyal groom David Hickey, if you want to see real emotion at Ascot take a short walk from the parade ring and stand with the stable staff at the rail.

Hickey has worked the long days and into longer nights for nearly three decades with Ballydoyle, looking after a star-studded cast that includes Camelot, Australia, Starspangledbanner and St Nicholas Abbey.

In the space of less than a month he has brought City of Troy into the winners' enclosure at the Epsom Derby and the Auguste Rodin here at Ascot.