The Fallout from Epsom

June 7th, 2023 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

Hi there,

After all the debate and discussion about the possible ramifications of this year’s Derby it ended up going to the old firm across the water and the long-term winter favourite.

Auguste Rodin gave Aidan O’Brien his ninth winner of the Classic, confirming last season’s Futurity form with King Of Steel albeit by a margin reduced from just over nine lengths to half-a-length.

The conclusion drawn from the numerous interpretations of the Dante form before Saturday was that it did not offer a strong case for any of the participants.

With the gift of hindsight the consequence should have been to look ‘left field’ for the winner and, as I wrote beforehand, perversely it was Auguste Rodin who had manoeuvred himself from pole position to become the dark horse of the race by virtue of that baffling display in the Guineas.

Then to further validate the point, by far and away the least exposed horse in the field was runner-up King Of Steel, who was trying to emulate Shaamit in becoming the first horse to win the race on his seasonal debut since 1996.

The fact that the winner finished four and three-quarter lengths clear of Dante runner-up White Birch, rated 112, suggests that he ran to his BHA mark of 117, while King Of Steel improved from 101 to 106 or thereabouts, although these marks will be adjusted.

So, from the figures through the third, the winner did not have to improve on his rating to win. The anomaly is the second, although anyone who read the report from David Milnes in Wednesday’s Racing Post would not have been surprised, with trainer Roger Varian predicting the son of Wootton Bassett could “outrun his odds.”

It would be fascinating to learn more about the colt’s work, but he certainly put in the most eye-catching burst of speed in the race when he powered clear of the pack two furlongs out. His rider Kevin Stott berated himself afterwards for going too soon, but the gap was there and he had to take it.

Had the colt managed to take up his engagement in the Dante Stakes he might have prevailed on Saturday, but then the winner was only doing what was required to win and may have had more to offer.

In the immediate aftermath of the race Aidan O’Brien was more effusive than usual, if that is possible. He went through his usual ritual of thanking everyone bar the stable cat, but struck me as a man who felt vindicated for keeping his faith in the colt and, bearing in mind the ‘lads’ like a punt despite the lofty heights they scale, mighty relieved that the coup had been landed.

The surprise was his weakness in the market given the degree of confidence the trainer had been passing on to the owners.

Looking ahead, the usual route adopted by the trainer for a colt of this type is the Irish Derby and then down to 10f for the Irish Champion Stakes, as they will be keen to try to enhance his profile in the paddocks by winning a Group 1 as a three-year-old over the shorter trip.

The winner is 4/6 for the Curragh, with 9/2 the runner-up and 12/1 available on Sprewell, who ran a sound race to finish fourth. He is 4/1 for the St Leger, but with the Triple Crown now off the picture that looks a most unlikely target.

Although a Group 1 winner in the mud last autumn, the key to Auguste Rodin is fast ground, as was the case with his sire Deep Impact. There was much to like about the way he lengthened his stride in the final quarter mile but looking at the re-run a few times the runner-up produced the superior turn of foot. Furthermore King Of Steel is a very imposing colt, standing over 17 hands, so has the physical scope to progress into his frame.

Of the others, concerns that The Foxes would not stay were probably well founded, although he virtually ran to his Dante form. Sprewell met trouble 3f out and then became unbalanced. He can be marked up a few pounds from this, while Passenger was keen early on and lacked the experience at this stage of his development. It was unusual to hear Sir Michael Stoute so upbeat about the colt beforehand and he will develop with time. Arrest will be seen to much better effect around a flatter track on soft ground in the autumn.

On Friday Soul Sister showed the turn of foot we saw from her at York to win the Oaks with something in hand. She is still a lightly-framed filly and could improve from this if she strengthens up. Caernarfon stayed the trip better than I expected – Jack Channon deserves great credit for his handling of this filly – while the once-raced maiden Maman Joon ran a blinder in fourth.

Bye for now