Auguste Rodin proves powerless to resist White Birch at the Curragh

Aidan O’Brien delivers ‘all is good so far’ bulletin ahead of City Of Troy’s Derby tilt at Epsom

Busy putting the finishing touches to City Of Troy’s date with Derby destiny at Epsom, Aidan O’Brien was left licking his wounds after last year’s ‘Blue Riband’ hero Auguste Rodin was left floundering behind old rival White Birch in Sunday’s Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh.

Despite having had White Birch behind him in both the English and Irish Derby last year, Auguste Rodin’s dramatic flop in Meydan in March meant he started an uneasy 11-10 favourite for the second start of his four-year-old career.

There was no spectacular blowout on his occasion but on rain-softened ground Auguste Rodin proved powerless to repel White Birch, who swept to a three-length victory under jockey Colin Keane.

It was a breakthrough Group One success for Co Cork trainer John Murphy, who’d saddled the grey to finish third at Epsom last year and been previously best known for Newmill’s victory in 2006 Champion Chase at Cheltenham.


Keane pointed to how much more of a mature performer the 15-8 winner now is, and the unfashionably bred colt from the elite flat racing outpost of Innishannon was slashed to 4-1 by some firms for both Royal Ascot’s Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and the Eclipse at Sandown.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for one as good as him. He’s a bit more chilled out this year and has progressed from race to race,” said the trainer’s son and assistant, George.

“People thought last year when he was a bit slow away from the gates a few times, and he was coming from off the pace, that he was more of a stayer. But he’s getting to show what he can do now.

“He’s got form on very quick ground as well, so he seems to handle them all. Colin was very good on him as he always is and gave him a super ride. He’s a master of his trade,” he added.

In contrast Coolmore’s decision to persevere with Auguste Rodin as a four-year-old resulted in a second setback of the season. There was no repeat of the damp squibs that also interrupted the colt’s career in the Guineas and the King George in 2023, but ultimately, he came up short.

“He ran a very good race. The rain was not going to be ideal but he’s on the way back,” said O’Brien who insisted there’s more to come from the horse.

Auguste Rodin’s performance fluctuations have tested O’Brien’s revitalising abilities to the maximum and they’re being pushed into service again with City Of Troy’s bid to bounce back from his own Guineas fiasco.

Despite finishing only ninth of 11 at Newmarket, City Of Troy is a clear favourite to supply O’Brien with a record-extending 10th Derby success next Saturday. Even the prospect of easy ground at Epsom hasn’t shaken his position at the top of the market, or stable confidence in him.

“We’re very happy with City Of Troy, all is good so far,” O’Brien said on Sunday. “I’m told there has been some rain at Epsom, but it was soft when he won the Dewhurst last year.”

Ylang Ylang is also set to lead the Ballydoyle team into Friday’s Oaks.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column