Big year for Auguste Rodin starts in Sheema Classic

Aidan O’Brien is fully aware of the importance of Auguste Rodin to the thoroughbred breed as he aims to add another stellar Group One to his CV in the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic.

By the late Japanese sensation Deep Impact, Auguste Rodin showcased his talent on the world stage last year by completing the Derby double at Epsom and the Curragh before adding the Irish Champion Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Turf to his tally.

On Saturday he is attempting to win on a third continent, with the brave decision to keep him in training as a four-year-old, especially given Coolmore will eventually be looking for him to take over from Galileo at stud, not lost on his trainer.

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“He’s so important to the breed of the thoroughbred,” said 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 a very brave decision by the lads to keep him in training, most definitely. 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.

“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 on-track in Dubai this week
Auguste Rodin on-track in Dubai this week (PA)

Later in the year O’Brien is keen to see if Auguste Rodin can handle a dirt surface, which would make him even more valuable and unique.

“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,” he added.

“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.”

There is at least one formidable obstacle to Auguste Rodin, however, in the shape of the Japanese filly Liberty Island, a multiple Group One winner in her homeland and last seen filling the runner-up spot behind her esteemed compatriot Equinox, who was nothing sort of sensational in last year’s Sheema Classic.

Auguste Rodin’s jockey Ryan Moore knows the strength of Japanese racing as much as anyone, and is full of respect for Liberty Island in a deep field.

“He had a gallop at Dundalk last month and he has been gearing up very well for this target since then,” he told Betfair.

“We never underestimate the opposition though, and you’d be pretty foolish to, given the make-up of this field.

“The strength of the Japanese circuit is there for all to see in this – Liberty Island’s winning run was only brought to a close by Equinox in the Japan Cup and we have to give that filly 5lb here, which is a pretty big ask – and there are Group One winners everywhere else you look too, not to mention the progressive Spirit Dancer.

“The winner will have earned their success.”

The British contingent is headed by John and Thady Gosden’s top-class filly Emily Upjohn, who has not not been seen in competitive action since disappointing in the King George at Ascot in July.

Thady Gosden said: “Obviously things didn’t quite go right there (in the King George), so we gave her a bit of time afterwards and she’s been in good order since really.

Emily Upjohn and Frankie Dettori winning the Coronation Cup at Epsom
Emily Upjohn and Frankie Dettori winning the Coronation Cup at Epsom (Mike Egerton/PA)

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“She’s been training well through the winter. Obviously it’s very difficult getting horses ready with the long, dark nights and the cold weather, but she’s enjoying her work and has travelled over without a bother. Like everyone she’s happy to be here and is enjoying the experience.

“She’s a filly who has always shown plenty of talent and she’s progressed well through her career, of course winning the Coronation Cup last year against the boys. She’s in a similar situation here over a mile and a half against colts, albeit in a much more international race against some of the best horses in the world, as you’d expect.”

Charlie Appleby and William Buick team up with 2022 Breeders’ Cup Turf hero Rebel’s Romance. The six-year-old disappointed behind Equinox 12 months ago, but returns for a second attempt off the back of claiming at Group Three prize in Qatar in February.

“It was great to see him back at that level in Doha. He obviously had that great spell two years ago, winning those Group Ones culminating in winning a Breeders’ Cup Turf,” said Appleby.

Rebel's Romance should not be underestimated
Rebel’s Romance should not be underestimated (Adam Davy/PA)

“Last year was a bit stop-start. Our plan of working back from the Sword Dancer met with a bit of a mishap where he clipped heels (at Saratoga in July). He didn’t go down, but Richie (Mullen) got a bad fall and the horse just lost his confidence.

“We went to Kempton for an easier assignment with the hope that he would gain confidence from it and you could visually see that he had and we went to Qatar with a horse that we felt was back on his A-game. It was a great ride by William that day, but you’ve got to have the horse underneath you and the combination did a great job and won very impressively.

“He’s come here in great nick. The Sheema Classic is probably the strongest race of the evening, but the mile-and-a-half turf division is always a strong division wherever you go.”

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