A Betfred Derby starting at 1.30pm may have been unusual but there was nothing unfamiliar about the winning connections as master Irish handler Aidan O’Brien captured his ninth Derby with Auguste Rodin under Ryan Moore for team Coolmore.
Auguste Rodin, well backed in the week leading up to the Classic, was bidding to put a lacklustre run in the 2,000 Guineas behind him, having finished a well-beaten twelfth behind Chaldean.
On the quicker surface at Epsom, Auguste Rodin was settled towards the rear of the 14-runner field by Moore as his stablemates Adelaide River and San Antonio cut out the running, tracked by Passenger, Dubai Mile and Arrest, the last-named bidding to give Frankie Dettori a farewell Derby victory.
As the field negotiated Tattenham Corner, Dettori asked Arrest to improve his position but he quickly came under pressure entering the home straight as Amo Racing’s King Of Steel and Kevin Stott found the gaps opening on the inside, surging to the front with two furlongs to run.
For a moment there looked like being an almighty upset in the Blue Riband, yet Moore had other ideas on Auguste Rodin who started to eat into King Of Steel’s lead, gradually wearing down his rival to grab the lead close home and take the spoils by half a length, with White Birch staying on from the rear to take third, four and a half lengths further back.
For Coolmore it was Derby victory number ten after Galileo (2001), High Chaparral (2002), Pour Moi (2011), Camelot (2012), Ruler Of The World (2013), Australia (2014), Wings Of Eagles (2017), Anthony Van Dyck (2019) and Serpentine (2020), all trained by O’Brien except Pour Moi, while Ryan Moore was enjoying his third Derby after Workforce (2010) and Rule Of The World (2013).
O’Brien told ITV Racing: “It’s great credit to everybody. Firstly for John [Magnier] to send a great mare to Japan and everyone is involved, there’s so many people who make this happen. He’s a total homebred horse and it’s all credit to them to make this thing happen every day.
“He came with a massive reputation as a beautiful horse, but he kept stepping up to all the markers the whole way, which is very unusual. He’s totally unique, he’s out of one of the greatest Galileo mares and by the greatest stallion ever in Japan, he’s totally unique.
“Ryan said it probably didn’t suit him and he’d prefer a lot stronger pace, but he said he had to quicken twice. He’s so exciting for us and I feel so grateful. I’m so delighted for his owners, it’s a great pleasure for us to have anything to do with him.
“It was one of those days [at Newmarket] and a few days before it all started to go wrong. We all know it’s a funny game and it all goes round and everyone gets their day, but you control the things you can control. You can’t stop the things you can’t control, from having him booked to fly a couple of days before it all started to go wrong really and everything just fell against him.
“The lads had the plan he’d do the three [Classic] races and we knew the first one would be the toughest as everything would have to fall right for him. Everything just went wrong but he came out the race great, every day we were riding him up he was getting better and more confident and Ryan gave him an incredible ride. He was so cool, he knew the pressure was on, so he gave him such a peach of a ride.
“I suppose in February when Ryan rode him in work, he said he was something very special as a two-year-old. You could imagine what he was like then, his movement was so spectacular and sometimes the horses lose that movement, but he’s never changed the whole way. His movement is just incredible.”
He continued: “I’m not sure where we’ll go but if we have a horse who we think is good enough we’ll have a look at the Irish Derby. The lads make all those decisions, we’ll see how he is and we’ll tell the lads. They’ll talk between themselves, then they’ll talk to Ryan and they’ll make a decision.
“I don’t think he had too tough a race as it wasn’t too strong a race and Ryan said he had to quicken twice on him because he got there going too easy and then he had to go again.
“All those options are open to him, the good thing about it is the pace was slow and he was still able to come from where he was. That was Ryan, he just let him find his own rhythm and let him do as he wanted.
“He always felt like he was the most special horse we had at Ballydoyle and that’s what we always felt.”