Auguste Rodin Aiming to Set Standards in Sheema

March 28, 2024

Auguste Rodin is the highest-rated horse running on World Cup night. (Dubai Racing Club/Liesl King)

The last Deep Impact: So much at stake in Auguste Rodin’s Sheema Classic bid

By Jeremy Greene

For all its undoubted quality, only one horse lining up on Saturday’s stellar Dubai World Cup programme at Meydan is being labelled in advance as having the potential to shape the thoroughbred breed for years to come.

We’re looking at you, Auguste Rodin.

His credentials are manifest. Ireland’s Horse of the Year in 2023 by virtue of four major titles in the Epsom and Irish Derbies, the Irish Champion Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Turf, Auguste Rodin will be the highest-rated runner at the meeting on 125.

Auguste Rodin is from the last crop from the prepotent Japanese stallion Deep Impact out of the Galileo mare Rhododendron. He is still the only foal to emerge from that triple Group 1 winning dam.

At a time when concerns exist over the diversity of the gene pool in the modern-day Flat thoroughbred, here is a horse with a genuinely brilliant race record to match a peerless international pedigree.

“He’s so important to the breed of the thoroughbred,” says trainer Aidan O’Brien. “He brings together the best of Japan and Europe – the best of two continents – and it’s fair to say he’s one of the most important and exciting horses we have ever had. He really does have a chance of exerting a huge influence on future racehorses.” 

It was widely anticipated the Coolmore partners behind Auguste Rodin would yield to the commercial realities and retire him to stud after his Breeders’ Cup triumph. Instead, they opted to roll the dice again and explore new frontiers with their star colt.

Rachel Richardson and Auguste Rodin on the main dirt track at Meydan on Wednesday. (Dubai Racing Club)
Rachel Richardson and Auguste Rodin on the main dirt track at Meydan on Wednesday. (Dubai Racing Club)

“It was a very brave decision by the lads to keep him in training, most definitely,” O’Brien adds. “There was already huge interest in him as a stallion prospect. But his owners are enjoying their racing more than ever these days and they are conscious of how unique this horse is. I think it’s great for everyone in racing that we can enjoy him again this year.” 

The US$6 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic will be quite a test of his credentials, however. Nine of his 11 rivals are Group 1 winners. Five of those hail from Japan, led by the race favourite Liberty Island.

The Ballydoyle handler continues: “We feel he has matured well from three to four and the reports from the team at Meydan are that he has travelled there well and is in great form.

“He is ready to run to his best and we are very excited about the journey ahead.”

Auguste Rodin at the Breeders’ Cup. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)
Auguste Rodin at the Breeders’ Cup. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Speaking of which, and looking beyond this weekend in Dubai, Auguste Rodin is already being considered for the best American dirt races later in the year after impressing with his aptitude for the surface in California late last year. The Whitney Stakes at Saratoga in the summer has been mooted as a possible starting point.

“I think, as a rule, Deep Impacts are more grass horses, but we were very surprised the way he worked on dirt in America during the Breeders’ Cup,” the trainer recalls.

“He cruises over the dirt, he’s a beautiful mover. He’s a very unusual-actioned horse so it will be very interesting to see how the season progresses. We can’t wait to see him back.”

That first step will be at Meydan on Saturday evening.

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