Aidan O’Brien hopeful that Auguste Rodin can emulate Nijinsky’s Triple Crown

Auguste Rodin, centre, with Ryan Moore up, on their way to winning the KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown Racecourse. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Simon Milham

Aidan O'Brien is chasing the Holy Grail of the Triple Crown with Auguste Rodin but insists Saturday's first leg, the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, will be the toughest.

The hot favourite for the Classic has won all three starts since finishing runner-up on his debut at the Curragh last June and looks sure to improve for stepping up in trip, which is why O'Brien feels he could be a contender for the Derby and St Leger as well.

He was last seen scorching to a three-and-a-half-length success in the Futurity Trophy at Doncaster in October and has headed the market for the Guineas and Derby ever since.

The master of Ballydoyle, who has won the 2000 Guineas on a record 10 occasions, is optimistic that the Coolmore team have the horse to emulate Nijinsky, the last Triple Crown winner in 1970.

In 2012, he oversaw Camelot's brilliant campaign, as he trotted up over a mile in the Guineas, then powered to glory over a mile-and-a-half in the Derby, before falling three-quarters of a length short when denied by Enke in the final leg, over a mile and three-quarters, in the St Leger at Doncaster.

"Obviously if we had a horse who could do it this year, he was going to be the horse," said O'Brien in a Great British Racing press conference.

"We didn't like to not give him the chance to do it, if he was good enough, really.

"The Guineas is a great race and there is only one Guineas. It is a great race to start him in and we will find out a lot about him.

"If it went well, then obviously the plan was always to go on to the Derby next and if that went well, let's see what the lads want to do."

A son of Deep Impact, who won seven Japanese Group One races and is from the family of Nashwan, Auguste Rodin is out of triple Group One winner Rhododendron, a daughter of O'Brien's champion three-year-old Galileo. Stamina is therefore unlikely to be an issue.

With that in mind, O'Brien feels the first leg of the Triple Crown is likely to be the hardest to win.

He added: "Obviously the Triple Crown is a very hard thing to do, but sometime it would be great to do it. He is by Deep Impact, who stayed well, he's out of a Galileo mare and we are looking forward to it.

"It is a difficult type of horse to find, because they have to have a lot of class and they have to have pace enough to run in the Guineas.

"It is really class that those horses have to have. It's pure class and class gives them stamina and gives them speed. We just thought that, at the moment, he fits into that bracket really well."

Asked what such an achievement would mean, O'Brien responded: "It would be incredible, really. It's a very difficult thing to do, but if you don't try, you're not there, it definitely won't happen.

"We don't ever expect those kind things to happen - I dream about them - but if we have that type of horse, we don't like to take that chance away from them."

He added: "Obviously the Guineas would definitely be the toughest leg to win. It is shorter and it is the shortest that he would be ready to get."

O'Brien, who last won the Guineas in 2019 with Magna Grecia, seems confident he can overcome the first objective in his Classic season.

"Obviously we think he could, because of the class he's shown in his work - and always did show - and he's showing it now in the spring," he said.

"He is well and has gone through all his work and seems to be in very good form so far, so it's definitely possible."

O'Brien will also be represented by Little Big Bear, who won his next four starts as a juvenile after finishing runner-up first time out.

Those victories included the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot over five furlongs and the Phoenix Stakes over six furlongs at the Curragh.

Though currently second favourite for the Guineas, getting the mile trip on his first try beyond six-and-a-half furlongs is no foregone conclusion.

"He is by No Nay Never which is a big influence on speed," admitted O'Brien.

"There is stamina in his dam's side. He is a big, powerful horse and we saw what he can do over five and six furlongs.

"He's a horse who won over five furlongs at Ascot and we know what kind of pace and precociousness that takes, and he had it.

"Then he got six and I suppose were were wondering would he get six. He got six and they way he got it, he looked like he would get seven standing on his ear, so obviously we are going to learn a lot.

"He hasn't run in a long time. His work over that distance has been nice and he's doing everything right, really."

He added: "He is a very laid-back horse and he doesn't use any petrol really - only what he needs to use. His temperament is a big advantage."

Ryan Moore will get the choice of the two Ballydoyle runners, with outsider Cairo unlikely to take part.

"Really, we leave Ryan to make up his own mind as late as possible and we never put him under any pressure," said O'Brien.

"I suppose when he decides what he is going to ride, then the rest falls into place.

"At the moment we think it will be Auguste Rodin."