Dual Derby hero Auguste Rodin is one of four runners for Aidan O’Brien as the master of Ballydoyle goes in search of a fifth victory in Saturday’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes.
It is 22 years since the great Galileo supplemented his Derby triumphs at Epsom and the Curragh with victory in Ascot’s midsummer highlight, comfortably accounting for top-class older horse Fantastic Light.
Dylan Thomas and Duke Of Marmalade provided O’Brien with back-to-back wins in 2007 and 2008 before Highland Reel struck gold for the County Tipperary maestro in 2016 – and in Auguste Rodin he has unearthed another potential middle-distance star.
Disappointing when favourite for the 2000 Guineas in May, the son of Japanese ace Deep Impact has since proved his worth with successive Classic wins over the King George distance of a mile and a half.
Both of those triumphs did come on fast ground, though, and with an easier surface forecast for this weekend, O’Brien is hoping underfoot conditions do not deteriorate further.
He said: “We’re very happy with Auguste Rodin and everything has gone very well since the last day.
“The better the ground, the better it will suit him. We wouldn’t want it getting any worse. We’ll definitely walk the track, obviously.
“He’s a beautiful mover, he doesn’t raise his feet much.”
Auguste Rodin is joined by a trio of stablemates in Luxembourg, Point Lonsdale and Bolshoi Ballet.
While the latter pair are three-figure prices with some bookmakers, it would be dangerous to dismiss Luxembourg, who has won an Irish Champion Stakes and a Tattersalls Gold Cup at Group One level over a mile and a quarter and was second to Mostahdaf in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot last month.
He finished seventh in last season’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on his only previous outing over a mile and a half and O’Brien does not view the longer trip as an issue.
“Luxembourg is very straightforward. He’ll love a mile and a half and will get the trip very well. He’s very fit and everything has gone really well since the last day,” he added.
“It’s a race we were always looking at with him and we thought it was going to suit. He’s solid, has had his two runs and he’s ready.
“It’s a great race and that’s what everyone wants all the time, the best horses all together and then let it happen. That’s what we all want to see win, lose or draw.”
Ryan Moore has a couple of King George wins on his illustrious CV courtesy of Conduit (2009) and Highland Reel and of the O’Brien quartet has unsurprisingly sided with Auguste Rodin.
However, he feels all four are worthy of their place in a stellar renewal and is certainly taking nothing for granted.
“This is clearly as deep a King George as we have seen in a fair while, even with the absence of Desert Crown and three others from the five-day stage, and it is no exaggeration to say that they all have a chance of winning,” the jockey told Betfair.
“Obviously, some a lot more than others, as the betting tells you, but you couldn’t totally dismiss any of these, as the likely outsiders Bolshoi Ballet and Point Lonsdale are Grade One and Group Two winners respectively.
“We’d like to think Auguste Rodin is towards the top of the list of the most likely winners though, and he comes into the race on the back of his two Derby wins. Some crabbed the manner of his win at the Curragh last time but I’ll take a Classic success however it lands – and he did it comfortably enough anyway, from a very good horse (Adelaide River).
“It is probably fair to say his defeat of King Of Steel at Epsom reads a lot better, as the runner-up showed how good that form was when winning at Royal Ascot. That was a strong Derby, and we expect him to be very competitive here.”
Moore has steered Luxembourg to all three of his top-level wins and views him as a major danger, adding: “Luxembourg is also a proper Group One horse, just rated 1lb inferior to Auguste Rodin, and he has unfinished business at this trip after an inconclusive run in very deep ground in the Arc.
“A win for him wouldn’t surprise me at all, as I don’t think a mile and a half is an issue for him, but the same goes for the likes of Hukum and Emily Upjohn to name just two, a Classic winner in Westover and last year’s winner Pyledriver.
“This race is as good as it gets in recent years, certainly in terms of depth, but luck in running will play its part with 11 runners, and Luxembourg is drawn one and Auguste Rodin in 11, which may have their challenges – but you play the hand you are dealt.
“I’d be most wary of Emily Upjohn, who I probably think has the best form coming into the race after her second to Paddington in the Eclipse.”