Clay. Marble. Stone.
Whatever the great sculptor used to make his masterpeices, the same can be said for his namesake’s trainer and the way he crafts his athletes, in that they are breathtaking, and wonders to behold.
Today’s winner certainly lived up to the regard he has been held in, and the hype pre-race that foretold another definitive performance from Coolmore and Ballydoyle.
Auguste Rodin secured an eleventh Futurity Stakes for his maestro from Ballydoyle under another talented artist in Ryan Moore, who guided the stunning son of the late Deep Impact to victory in the Group 1 Vertem Futurity Stakes at Doncaster.
In the process, the 9/4F enabled the record of most victories in this race, first run in 1961, to be wrested from the late great Sir Henry Cecil, and granted to Aidan O’Brien, a trainer who is sentimental to the sport and a keen enabler of top quality thoroughbreds.
There had been some doubt over the participation of the horse in the days and hours leading up to the race after a deluge of rain left the conditions at Town Moor Heavy, but the trainer gave the go ahead for the horse to continue his participation with the valiant performances of Aesop’s Fables and Hispanic 30 minutes earlier.
Those worries were all for nothing, and it was a case of replaying the story that has been played out 10 times before.
Settled in at the rear of the trio that came along the less trodden path on the near side, Ryan stalked his rivals from the back and made steady progress with just over two furlongs to run, winding his charge up and travelling powerfully once the questions began to be asked.
Sent on at the two furlong mark, he quickened up in the style of a very smart horse and from this moment on it was simply a case of who was going to finish second. He went readily clear and continued his relentless gallop, scoring by just shy of four lengths to Epictetus, with trainer John Gosden quick to come over to Aidan and congratulate him on breaking Sir Henry Cecil’s record.
Speaking afterwards, the trainer was full of praise for all his team and their charge, maintaining his professionalism and gratitude towards all who make their success possible.
“We are delighted with him, he’s a lovely horse, always was”.
“Rachel rides him every day and does an unbelievable job. Wayne rides him in his work when she cannot…. Finbar…. Everyone, he’s a lovely horse”.
“It was amazing to send the mare over to Deep Impact, and he is from the last crop from him, he is a very smart horse”.
“He’s one to look forward to for next year”.
“He has beautiful lines, he has everything. He’s a fine mover and a great big horse”.
It came as no surprise that very soon after the race, he was being questioned as if he would shape better for one mile in the 2000 Guineas, or step up in trip for something like the Derby Trial ( Derrinstown ) at Leopardstown over 1m 2f. Those would be his prep runs towards a trip to Epsom for the most famous Classic of them all in June.
Masterful as always, Aidan indicated it would be a team effort, and a group decision amongst the advisors he depends on with decisions like this.
“It depends what the lads want to do with him, they will make the decisions always”.
“I would imagine he will be trained for a Classic”.
“He would have no problem being trained for a Guineas, he’s that type of horse. He’s full of class. He would have no problem on good ground down at Newmarket”.
Quick tom follow this, he determined that if he was not to line up on HQ’s Rowley Mile on May 6th, then perhaps staying at home for the Derrinstown may suit him more.
“You would imagine he would have no problem getting a mile and a quarter on his ear, and usually if the horses are that classy enough they don’t have any problem getting a mile and a half”.
“He really is something to look forward, he’s a beautiful physique, a lot of scope, and looks to have all the ticks”.
“He’s going to be very happy going up to a mile and a quarter, and he could even go up to a mile and a half for the Derby”, of which he is currently the 7/1 favourite for the Classic at Epsom next June.
“He is very exciting”.
The son of the late, great, Japanese sire Deep Impact and 2017 oaks runner up Rhododendron relished the underfoot conditions, with Aidan being reminded of his charge’s dam’s performance behind Enable, in the midst of a torrential downpour and thunderstorm on that day in June.
“We felt that it wasn’t heavy ground”, he noted, referencing his course walk earlier today.
“When we went over to France ( ParisLongchamp 3 weeks earlier ) we knew it was heavy ground, you could feel it”.
That experience, and the fact that his dam has been proven on soft, tough, stamina sapping conditions whilst she was racing, meant that it was in the end a simple enough decision, with Aidan giving the all clear to let his charge take their opportunity for a quest into the history books.
“We thought it was worth taking his chance as the lads said it wouldn’t do him any harm”.
“Ryan gave him a class ride, we were delighted. It wasn’t easy to do what he did, but we couldn’t be happier”.
Aidan confirmed that the plan has been for the horse to be raced on the near side, keeping out of the rutted ground down the centre that was raced on yesterday, to which it was determined to be a “masterplan” by Sky Sports’ Matt Chapman.
Aidan then stated that they felt the horse was “not at his best”, but that the experience would “do him good” for the future targets next season.
The manner of his performance suggested nothing short of impressive, so it will whet the appetite of many fans of the Flat for the long winter months ahead.
The trainer reflected on his previous runs, beginning at the Curragh where he was a little bit green, but was unlucky not to win.
“He was there too early for the type of horse that he was”, and that afterwards “ we gave him a good long break”. It seems to have done the horse all the world of good, as he is now unbeaten in 3 runs since that day.
“We were very happy with him at Leopardstown. Ryan felt that when he got to the front he was very babyish. He just began to idle, but since then he has been very good. We felt there was an awful lot to come”.
“He’s a very exciting horse for next year”.
Once again Aidan was quick to reflect on all the people who make up Coolmore and Ballydoyle for their success. “We are only a very small part of a massive team. I’m so delighted for everyone, starting from the boys at the top, everyone puts in a lot of hard work”.
“Ballydoyle is for everyone, it’s a privilege to be a part of it.
Attention again reflected to the winner’s dam, who in rhododendron was capable of performing on conditions that other horses would have struggled in.
“Paul said to me before the race that Rhododenron was second to Enable in the Oaks, and she was a beautiful, so that gave us a lot of confidence ( that Auguste Rodin was going to handle the conditions ), and she’s amazing”.
“This is her first racefoal, so she’s a very exciting race mare”.
It is equally exciting to see how high up the ladder this beautiful son of her and the late Deep Impact can go. They will always be seen with rose tinted spectacles, given they are the last crop of the fine sire, so it will be fitting to see this colt go far and continue the excellent form he is currently in.
The owners were in enigmatic disbelief with their charge as he was paraded in the winners enclosure afterwards, noting that usually “the best horses handles any condition, and he seems to be up there with them”.
“It was always the plan to see if he handles conditions”, they added afterwards.
Crafting a sculpture taking precision, time, effort and talent. And both him, his trainer, and his jockey have it in spades.
For the cold winter nights that lay ahead, the fires and coals of the 2023 Flat Season can be stoked by the thoughts of how far this one can go. He goes into the season a leading contenders for Classics and more, with the potential to being an excellent specimen for connections and the breed alike.
The best, they say, is yet to come.
Feature Article Written By: Jack and Tom Williams
Photo: Auguste Rodin (JTW Equine Images)
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