Donn's Articles » Aidan O’Brien

Aidan O’Brien

Rachel Richardson leads Auguste Rodin out onto the grass.  Rachel is smiling.  She knows what happens next.  She knows this horse.  Few people know him better.

Auguste Rodin paws the ground a little and then slowly, deliberately, carefully, lies down on his side.  He rubs his left side on the grass for a few seconds and then, like a golden retriever playing on the beach, rolls over on his back.  Legs in the air momentarily, stomach for all to see, he gets onto his right side and rubs that on the grass too.

“That’s what he does,” says Aidan O’Brien.  “You love to see them do that.  That’s him.  He’s in some form.”

Minutes earlier, we watched as Auguste Rodin strode up the gallop on the far side of the rail, his body moving effortlessly under Rachel Richardson, motionless on his back.  Together they reached the top, slowed to a walk, then turned and, with their stable companions, walked back down towards us.

It’s routine and it’s uniform.  Every rider clad head to toe in black, black helmet, maroon cap.  Every horse has a rug with his or her name written on it, as well as the sire and the dam, and beneath every rug is a saddlecloth with the same name and sire and dam.  Some sires need just one letter.  G is Galileo, C is Camelot, A is Australia, J is Justify, F is Frankel.  Others need two.  DI is Deep Impact, but you figure that that’s just to differentiate him from Du, Dubawi.  Other sires get three, NNN is obviously No Nay Never, but only because it wouldn’t be right to leave one or two of the Ns out.  It’s a veritable Who’s Who of stallions here.


Auguste Rodin is Auguste Rodin (DI/Rhododendron) and he is well.  You know that he is well because, even before his roll in the grass, he looks a million dollars.  It’s an overcast morning, but still his coat shines, the outward glow of a ball of power and muscle and wellbeing.  He looks alert but relaxed, attentive yet calm, in common with just about everything here.

As each horse walks back down past the trainer, each rider is asked about the wellbeing of his or her horse.  Patrick?  (Aesop’s Fables.) All well. Robbie? (Tower Of London.) Very good. Khurram? (Salt Lake City.) Jonathan? (Unless.) Mahaboob? (Broadhurst.)

All good.

We’re into the final throes of preparation for the Irish Champions’ Festival next weekend, and the Ballydoyle team is taking shape for one of the most important weekends on the racing calendar.  Aidan O’Brien has won the Kingdom of Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes 11 times, more times than any other trainer.  He has won the last four renewals, and he has had the 1-2-3 in the race twice.  This year, Auguste Rodin and Luxembourg are set to fly the Ballydoyle flag.

“Auguste Rodin is really well,” says Aidan of his dual Derby winner.  “He’s really fresh at the moment.  It was a blip with him in Ascot.  Ryan felt that things weren’t right, and took him out, which was definitely not the wrong thing, because there was no damage, mental or physical done.  We’re looking forward to him.  His work is very good.  When you see a horse rolling the way he roll.  He flips both sides without even batting an eyelid.  And I don’t think the drop down to 10 furlongs will be a problem.  He has a load of class, a lot of speed, a great traveller.”

Luxembourg (C/Attire) did well to win last year’s renewal of the Irish Champion Stakes in the middle of a truncated season.  He was off the track for over 100 days after he finished third in the 2000 Guineas, returning in the Royal Whip Stakes in August before going to Leopardstown and bagging Aidan O’Brien’s 11th Irish Champion Stakes.

“Luxembourg is very well too.  His work has really come forward.  We sent him forward in the King George, we might have been a little bit too forceful with him over a mile and a half.  We know that he has mile and quarter class, he’s a mile and a quarter horse who gets a mile and a half.  So we’re looking forward to him, back at a mile and a quarter.

Meditate is on track for the other Group 1 race at Leopardstown on Saturday, the Coolmore America Justify Matron Stakes.

“She’s good.  She has put on 20 kilos since her last run.  It might have all happened a little bit early for her.  She mightn’t have been fully mature when you see that she is that much heavier now.  So there is a chance that she could come right back to her best.  Hopefully.  She’s in very good form.”

The two-year-olds are on track for the Group 1 races at The Curragh on Sunday.  It looks like the unbeaten impressive Superlative Stakes winner City Of Troy will head the colts’ team for the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes, and that Ylang Ylang, also unbeaten in two runs, Silver Flash Stakes winner, will head the fillies’ team for the Moyglare Stud Stakes.

And Kyprios is back.  Last year’s Ascot Gold Cup winner, the outstanding stayer of 2022 who suffered an infection in his joint that could have ended his career and even his life, is back in training, nursed back to health by Aidan O’Brien and his team, and he’s on track for the Comer Group International Irish St Leger on Sunday again.

“He’s making great progress,” says Aidan.  “He was at The Curragh two weeks ago.  Being realistic, could he be ready enough to win?  Probably not.  You can’t really go in and win a big championship race like that without having a run.  If you only knew what he had to go through to get back to where he was.  It would be just exciting to get him back and get him going.”

That’s Kyprios (G/Polished Gem).

© The Sunday Times, 3rd September 2023