Aidan O’Brien hoping Bravery can end French Derby wait

Fort Del Oro can claim Ballyogan Stakes in the Curragh’s Group Three feature

Aidan O’Brien: first tried to win the French classic 18 years ago. Photograph: Photograph: Gerry Penny/EPA

Bravery will have to live up to his name if Aidan O’Brien is to fill the most glaring gap in his classic CV in Sunday’s French Derby at Chantilly.

With flood threats in Paris forecasts of very soft ground conditions for the €1.5 million Prix Du Jockey Club probably err on the side of understatement, something likely to favour only a few among the 17 runners.

That Bravery ran his best race on a yielding surface when fourth in the Irish 2,000 Guineas is encouraging.

But the O’Brien first-string is still rated a general 12-1 shot to finally provide his trainer with a maiden success in a classic he first tried to win 18 years ago.


Highland Reel’s second to New Bay last year is the closest O’Brien has got to date and that colt was the apparent second-string.

On this occasion Black Sea looks the Ballydoyle No.2 and his stall one draw could prove an advantage in a race where some of the market leaders, Foundation and Zarak especially, are drawn high near Bravery who is in 14.

With a low draw, and proven Group One winning form on testing conditions over the Epsom Derby hopeful, Cloth Of Stars, many will rate the chances of the English-trained Robin Of Navan.

Zarak, a son of the Arc heroine, Zarkava, has plenty to prove however after his disappointing French Guineas effort behind The Gurkha. Sunday’s classic is due off a 3.15 Irish-time.

Another Irish star in action at Chantilly will be the former Abbaye winner Maarek who lines up in the Group Two Prix Du Gros-Chene over five furlongs.

Bounce back

The Curragh’s Group Three feature today is the TRM Ballyogan Stakes and presents an opportunity for Fort Del Oro to bounce back to winning form after her last-place finish in last month’s Greenlands. But she was reported ‘in season’ afterwards and Eddie Lynam’s course and distance winner looks worth another chance.

Lynam can also land the preceding handicap with the topweight Falcao but if he’s something of an open book in form terms then Chemical Charge is an intriguing starter in the Listed TRI Silver Stakes.

The son of Sea The Stars won both his juvenile starts for Ralph Beckett but is now with the in-form Ger Lyons and could relish the forecast fast ground conditions.

The Ballydoyle hope, Sir Isaac Newtown, looks a danger but will have to step up considerably from his Dundalk run in April.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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