July 19, 2024

Royal Ascot: Auguste Rodin gives O’Brien 400th Group 1 win

Auguste Rodin winning the Prince of Wales's (G1) at Royal Ascot (Photo by Megan Coggin/Ascot Racecourse)
Auguste Rodin winning the Prince of Wales's (G1) at Royal Ascot (Photo by Megan Coggin/Ascot Racecourse)

Trainer Aidan O’Brien picked up the 400th Group 1 win of his career when 2023 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) hero Auguste Rodin pounced to a determined triumph in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot.

The Prince of Wales’s was one of four group stakes taking place on the second day of the coveted five-day meeting.

Prince of Wales’s (G1)

A stellar 10-horse field turned out for this 1 1/4-mile “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the 2024 Breeders’ Cup Turf, including last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) winner Inspiral. But bettors in the World Pool strongly favored Auguste Rodin, establishing the 2023 Epsom Derby (G1) winner as an even-money favorite even though he’d finished 12th in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) and second in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1) to start 2024.

A change in tactics helped Auguste Rodin rebound and secure his sixth top-level win. Rather than rate toward the rear of the field, Auguste Rodin settled in fourth position as longshot Snobbish set the pace. Staying closer to the front allowed Auguste Rodin to seize command in the homestretch and turn back prolonged challenges from Zarakem and Horizon Dore to win by three-quarters of a length. The final time over good-to-firm going was 2:03.12.

“Auguste Rodin is a very special horse,” O’Brien said. “… I was probably giving instructions wrong all along, we were riding him too far back and if there was no pace in the race, he was too far out of the race. So we changed everything. Ryan said he was going to ride him positive, engage him straight away—he’ll get up there and cruise off any pace. He is very straightforward.

“I feel the blips were my fault, the instructions were wrong, and it took us to this time to start getting it right. We saw today that when he gets to the front, he waits, and then he goes again, and that’s what makes him very good. He has a personality, and good horses, they have to develop a personality to become good. And he has everything—the action, the movement, the temperament, the pedigree. So he’s very special really and Ryan gave him a very special ride.”

Alflaila and Royal Rhyme finished fourth and fifth, while Inspiral raced off the pace throughout and never challenged in sixth place. She did, however, finish ahead of the multiple Group 1 winners Blue Rose Cen and Lord North, who beat only Hans Andersen and Snobbish to the finish line.

Future plans for Auguste Rodin could include a return to the United States, perhaps for a try on dirt.

“The lads will decide what they want to do,” said O’Brien. “We give them the feedback and then they make a decision. He can do anything really. He can go to America… we were very surprised when he went to the dirt with the way he handled it. He cruises. The great thing about him is now we see that he’s very happy to be ridden forwards, we were probably riding him back too far and not giving him a chance. I think he can do anything, really. It’s totally dependent on what the lads want to do. Whether he goes to America, whether he stays around here. I think now we are more confident that we have worked him out.”

In addition to giving O’Brien his 400th Group 1 win, August Rodin secured O’Brien a fifth triumph in the Prince of Wales’s, matching the record held jointly by trainers Sir Henry Cecil and John Gosden.

“I am so delighted for everybody, especially the lads—they make it happen,” said O’Brien. “Without them, none of it would happen. So many people I don’t mention every day, the people in the farm, the people in the office. There’s so many people. I am so grateful to them all for making this happen.”

Queen’s Vase (G2)

Earlier in the day, Moore and O’Brien teamed up to win the Queen’s Vase (G2) with Illinois, the 8-5 World Pool favorite.

Though winless in three starts since his October debut, Illinois entered the Queen’s Vase off a runner-up finish in the 1 7/16-mile Lingfield Derby Trial, and the stoutly bred son of Galileo was widely expected to give trainer Aidan O’Brien an eighth win in the 1 3/4-mile Queen’s Vase, equaling the record held by Sir Henry Cecil.

Illinois delivered on those expectations. After pressing the pace set by longshot Mr Hampstead, Illinois took over with more than a quarter-mile remaining and stayed on despite drifting out to defeat stablemate Highbury by 1 1/4 lengths in 3:00.57.

Birdman rallied for third place, followed by Meydaan, The Equator, Imperial Sovereign, Lavender Hill Mob, Pappano, Mina Rashid, Mr Hampstead, and See The Green.

After the race, O’Brien indicated the St Leger (G1)—the final leg of the British Triple Crown—could be on the agenda for Illinois, who races for Coolmore connections Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier, and Michael Tabor.

“We will probably take our time with Illinois and let him have the chance to develop the way he wants to,” O’Brien said. “… That’s what he is, he’s going to be a mile-and-a-half, mile-and-six horse and he’s going to get better from three to four. He is a bit of a baby mentally still, so he might have a little rest now and maybe go to York on the way to the Leger, something like that.”

Queen Mary (G2)

Two-year-old fillies took their turn in the spotlight in the Queen Mary (G2), a five-furlong dash that drew two-dozen starters. U.S. raider Ultima Grace carved out the pace on the near side for trainer Wesley Ward, but soon faded as 23-1 World Pool chance Leovanni parlayed a forward trip on the far side into a decisive victory.

The Karl Burke trainee stepped forward nicely off her debut victory sprinting five furlongs at Nottingham, prevailing by 1 3/4 lengths under jockey James Doyle while stopping the clock in :59.60. Mighty Eriu came closest to catching the Wathnan Racing colorbearer, closing nicely on the near side to edge Maw Lam by a neck for second place.

“She’s got a fantastic mind, this filly,” Burke said of Leovanni. “Not just for a two-year-old—for a breeze-up two-year-old she’s unbelievable. So relaxed and that’s all credit going forward—that will be a great help to her. I am sure she’ll stay six furlongs.”

“I think anytime you get a winner early on in the week, in any normal year, it’s quite nice,” Doyle said. “But especially to do it this year. We know there’s a lot of work that’s been put in behind the scenes at Wathnan Racing to get a select group of horses that are targeted for this meeting, so the pressure is on to perform. To get a winner early on in the week can only help.”

Miss Lamai, Miss Rascal, Zanthe, Oxford Rock, Betty Clover, Amestris, Flash The Cash, Adrestia, 7-2 favorite Kassaya, Truly Enchanting, Englemere, Sands of Havana, Seraphim Angel, Enchanting Empress, Ruby’s Profit, Kiss Me My Love, Ultima Grace, Spherical, Where’s Clare, Make Haste, and Flicka’s Girl completed the order of finish.

Duke of Cambridge (G2)

Although Running Lion had lost six straight races coming into the one-mile Duke of Cambridge (G2) for fillies and mares, trainers John and Thady Gosden had her ready to run the race of her life at Royal Ascot. With Oisin Murphy in the saddle, Running Lion carved out much of the pace before edging away down the homestretch of the round course to beat stablemate Laurel by two lengths in 1:39.12.

“Running Lion has been unlucky,” John Gosden said. “She moved a bit soon in the Dahlia Stakes (G2) at Newmarket and then got boxed in at Epsom. We did decide this time, Oisin, do what you want. He was drawn 11, go to the front, and control it. It was perfect, because we got in a muddle in the last two races.”

“She was brilliant today, we got it together,” Murphy said. “The plan was to go forward and forget about her last two races… When she saved energy like that, she was going to be hard to pass. I got some breathers into her all the way round the turn, but today I had the horse to do that, whereas on her first start this year I couldn’t slow her down.”

David Howden owns the four-year-old daughter of Roaring Lion, who started at 5-1 in the World Pool. He was full of praise for his triumphant filly.

“I knew Running Lion had it in her and what a way to do it, fantastic,” Howden said. “She gets her head down, she changes her legs and she digs in. Her sire Roaring Lion ran the same way, with his head down, and it’s wonderful to see.”

Doom, Magical Sunset, Rogue Millennium, Julia Augusta, Breege, Royal Dress, Orchid Bloom, Novus, Ocean Jewel, Nibras Angel, Sea The Lady, and Gregarina trailed home the Gosden trainees.

Day 3 of Royal Ascot on Wednesday brings four more group stakes, including the historic 2 1/2-mile Gold Cup (G1). Another highlight is the Norfolk (G2) for two-year-olds sprinting five furlongs, which awards a Win and You’re In berth to the 2024 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1).