Auguste Rodin And The Search For Greatness

A pedigree than spans two continents

This week Robin Bruss examines the crafted pedigree construct that has led to Auguste Rodin, and why he can one day become the next great sire.

It takes a rare breed of breeder to send a mare 8800 km across the world to be mated to a particular stallion with the determined aim to breed a great racehorse.

What makes it rarer, is that the mating is built on obvious stamina – an Irish Galileo mare to Japanese Deep Impact, a mix of Classic 2400m to Classic and professionally stout 3200m stamina.

Auguste Rodin wins the Breeders’ Cup Turf (Pic – Breeders Cup World Championship)

This is the rare domain of the owner-breeder, willing to take the risk in the hope of Classic greatness, following in the footsteps of the increasingly smaller group of private breeders where success or failure is measured not in the yearling market, but by what Tesio called “the block of wood – that is the winning post of the English Derby”.

What makes Coolmore’s mating of Galileo’s daughter Rhododendron to the 10x champion sire Deep Impact appear on the face of it to be decidedly risky, is that stamina to stamina might not produce the intended Champion and Derby winner who might become the successor to 13x Champion Sire Galileo at stud one day.

It might just as easily have produced an Ascot Gold Cup winner, who in today’s age, tends to find himself as a flagbearer for National Hunt!

But in this case, there are two pedigree constructs in the make-up of the resulting colt foal AUGUSTE RODIN, that are so masterful, and so well constructed, it is easy to pass the opinion that he is the best bred horse in the world right now.

Firstly and foremostly, there is the build-up of RACING CLASS in his pedigree at a depth of eliteness I have not previously seen.

Let me explain:

There are 65 countries that race and around 600 000 thoroughbreds in the world.  To win at Group 1 level is a probability of around 1 in every 1000 horses globally.  Group 1 winners therefore comprise 0,001% of the population.

As I see it, if you look at a pedigree and focus on the names in the first three generations  of parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, there are 14 antecedants which can be classified by their own racing  ability.

It’s a simple method which it tells us far more about the depth of pedigree than publishing three generations of the female line that’s printed on a catalogue page.

In the case of August Rodin, we see that these 14 ancestors comprise twelve Group 1 winners. That is, 100% of his two parents and 100% of his four grandparents were ALL Gr1 Winners.

Auguste Rodin wins the Irish Derby (Pic – Racing TV)

In the third generation, its six out of eight. That is, 86% of horses in his first three generations are Group 1 and within the top 0,001% of the breed.  It’s the very tip of the pyramid of class.

The two ancestors which are not Gr1 winners are Alzao and Burgclere, sire and dam of Wind In Her Hair, the Gr1 winning mare who foaled champion Deep Impact.

Alzao, who is amongst the rare band of stallions to sire 100 SW, was a Gr3 winner himself, by Gr1W Lyphard out of Gr2W Lady Rebecca by Gr1W Sir Ivor.

He comfortably fits into the top 3% of the breed.

Burgclere was bred by HM The Queen and broke her maiden at 14 furlongs and ran 4th in the Ribblesdale Stakes  (Gr2) at Royal Ascot and was by European Champion triple Gr1 winner Busted out of Highclere, who won the 1000 Guineas Gr1 and the French Oaks Gr1, as royally bred as one can be !

One caveat : Deep Impact’s sire, the Kentucky Derby (Gr1) winner Sunday Silence, was by Gr1 winner Halo from the tough, sound and game Wishing Well, who won 12 races in 38 starts including the 1980 Gamely S. for fillies and mares.

The race was only accorded Gr1 status three years later in 1983.

Also Cassandra Go, the 3rd dam of Auguste Rodin, won the Kings Stands S. at Royal Ascot beating the colts.  It was a Gr1 race before and after she won it but officially a Gr2 in her year. She was second in the July Cup Gr1 at Newmarket and clearly a Group 1 performer. I count them both in the elite class.

If all roads lead to Mecca, to coin a phrase, in Auguste Rodin’s case, all roads lead to Group 1.

His two parents won 6 Gr1 races, his four grandparents won 12 Gr1s and, eight great grandparents another 8 Gr1s.  Total 26 Group 1 wins plus his own five Gr1s. Total 31.

When the time comes for Auguste Rodin to go to stud, I relish the thought that dipping into any part of his gene pool, whether he breeds to his own sterling performance of five Group 1 wins or that of his champion antecedents, the elite traits will spill into his progeny like confetti at a wedding.

By comparison, 13x Champion Sire GALILEO, won 3 Gr1s and by Gr1W Sadlers Wells from the Arc Gr1 winning heroine Urban Sea.

Seven of the 14 (50%) of his antecedents in three generations won 9 Gr1 races.  With his 3, the total is 12.   Similarly for his half-brother Sea The Stars. Seven antecedents out of 14 won 7 Gr1s. With his own 6 Gr1s, the  total is 13. Neither are as well -bred as Auguste Rodin, with his total of 31.

All of this depth would have been known at the time of the mating and would have created a sense of confidence in the predictability of the mating which produced Auguste Rodin.

The second part of the construct that is masterful is the blend of speed AND stamina, which must have reassured the Coolmore team that the result was unlikely to be a two mile plodder.

The story starts in 2006 when Coolmore’s Demi O’Byrne finds a yearling filly at Goffs that is bred for pure speed by Irish breeder Trevor Stewart, who had the raced the dam Cassandra Go and developed the whole family. 

She is by the 5f Nunthorpe S. winner Pivotal out of the 6f Royal Ascot Kings Stand S. winner Cassandra Go, by another Kings Stand S. winner Indian Ridge.

Demi pays €450,000 for her on behalf of John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derek Smith and she is named Halfway to Heaven. This fountainhead of speed begins the Coolmore story.

Despite her speed origins, Aidan O Brian trains her to win a 7f juvenile maiden and then aims her at the French 1000 Guineas Gr1.

In a normal year, she might have won the French Classic, but this was no normal year, it’s the all-time greatest running. Halfway to Heaven finishes third behind the brilliant Zarkava (unbeaten in 7 starts, five Gr1s including the Arc) and in second was all time great Goldikova (who won 13 Gr1 racs).The time unsurprisingly was a new race record!

Halfway to Heaven then wins the Irish 1000 Guineas (Gr1) at a mile, and when stepped up to 10 furlongs, she adds the Nassau S. (Gr1) and completes the season by winning the Sun Chariot S. (Gr1) at a mile.

It’s three Gr1’s and her speed pedigree, has been coaxed into being extended into a mile and then a mile and a quarter.  Speed that stays.  Speed that accelerates. The hallmarks that Great Horses must have.

She is an ideal mate for the Derby winner and champion sire Galileo to take the speed one step further:  the Classic mile and half. She is mated to Galileo 6 times in a row. Five of them are winners. One colt Flying the Flag becomes a Gr3 Winner at 1400m and is now at stud in South Africa.

Coolmore hits the jackpot with two of the fillies, Rhododendron and Magical.  The two full sisters are phenomenal.

Rhodendron wins the Lockinge (Pic – Coolmore)

Rhododendron is tough and sound enough to run 19 times, she has enough speed to win the Ascot Fillies Mile (Gr1) at 2 years and follows with the Lockinge S.(Gr1) over a mile against the colts, wins the Prix l’Opera (Gr1) at 10f in Paris, and places in the 1000 Guineas (Gr1), English Oaks (Gr1) behind Enable and the Breeders Cup Fillies & Mares (Gr1).

She earns four championship titles, the most important is Champion Older Female in Europe 2018. She is best up to 10 furlongs, but doesn’t quite get the mile and a half.

Her year younger sister Magical is even tougher, and an amazing globetrotter.

She earns the same European Champion title twice as well as four other titles including Best Older Female on the World Rankings.  She races 28 times for 12 wins (7 Group 1, five of them defeating colts) from 7 furlong  to 12 furlongs, and 14 places (11 Group 1), she starts in 5 countries, and earns £5 million.  Whereas Rhododendron wins a Gr1 at 2, Magic misses by a short head to win with Moyglare Stud S. Gr1 over 7f, but she stays the one and half miles well.

This mix of speed and stamina is a perfect demonstration of all the qualities that offer the best of both worlds, with all the toughness and soundness and durability that stamina brings, together with speed that is the hallmark of acceleration in champion horses.

Where to next?

Rhododendron, Champion daughter of Champion Galileo and triple Gr1 Classic winner Halfway to Heaven is sent to Japan to go to the Yoshida’s super 10x Champion Sire, Deep Impact, whose three Gr1 wins were at 2400m., 2500m and 3200m.

The colt foal is AUGUSTE RODIN, born back in Ireland, with the likely promise of inherited speed, precociousness, Classic ability at 3 years, and the toughness and soundness so ably demonstrated by his champion mother and her champion sister, as well as Deep Impact himself.

AUGUSTE RODIN fulfills his potential : he wins a Gr2 at 7f and a Gr1 at a mile as a 2 year old so comprehensively that he is winter favourite for the Classics.

He lapses in the Guineas, but storms home in the Derby (Gr1) and Irish Derby (Gr1) at 12f, adds another Gr1 in the 10f Irish Champion Stakes, and concludes the season with a 5th Gr1 by adding the Breeders Cup Turf in America in dazzling style.

He has Speed WITH Stamina.

A decision was made last week that Auguste Rodin will stay in training to race as a 4 year old. This is grand news for three reasons : 

Firstly, to emulate the toughness of his father Deep Impact who won 12 of his 14 races, as well his dam Rhododendron, who raced 19 times and won Gr1 races at each of 2, 3 and 4 years, a rare achievement.

Secondly, the purpose of breeding is to enjoy the sport of racing with the fans.

Thirdly, generational breeders thoroughly test and demonstrate the calibre, quality, toughness and soundness of their horses as much as to demonstrate talent.   Greatness lies in thoroughly proving that you are up to the test, as your parents did before you.

Longevity also builds respect, its builds a fan base, a willingness to follow greatness and show up to see the champion run.

Watch the Breeders Cup Turf replay:

Five Gr1 wins is exceptional for any horse, but the truly greats like Nearco and Ribot and Hyperion and Frankel – they show up at 4 years old and put it on the line time and again. They become the legends of the breed.

Beautiful, elegant, quality Auguste Rodin looks like a horse still maturing, and his superb light action and exceptional stretch with grand acceleration could see him elevate from champion 3 year old to the Horse of the Year in Europe, or perhaps even challenge the mantle for best Horse of the World.

Aidan O’ Brien remarked after the Breeders Cup Turf that Auguste Rodin is an important horse as his pedigree bridges two continents.

As he races on, the world’s best pedigree could become the world’s best racehorse, then ultimately the world’s best classic stallion.

Only then the Masterclass of John Magnier and the Coolmore empire will be complete.

Robin Bruss (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Robin Bruss (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

The Sporting Post welcomes Robin Bruss as a guest columnist.

Robin is a widely respected industry expert and a man with an encyclopaedic knowledge of horseracing and breeding.

He has been involved with the sport all of his life, as a Gr1 winning owner and breeder, agent, auctioneer, journalist, television presenter, researcher, administrator and consultant.

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