Aidan O’Brien looking to fill the last piece in his Classic jigsaw

Trainer needs French Oaks on Sunday to complete set in Ireland, England and France

Joan Of Arc could give Aidan O’Brien a maiden French Oaks win on Sunday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Joan Of Arc could give Aidan O’Brien a maiden French Oaks win on Sunday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Aidan O’Brien will hope to fill in the last remaining piece of his major European classic jigsaw on Sunday.

The record-breaking trainer needs only the French Oaks to complete a sweep of the classics in Ireland, England and France and could hardly have a more evocative name than Joan Of Arc to go to war with in the €1 million Prix De Diane.

Beaten a short head by her stable companion Empress Josephine in the Curragh 1,000 Guineas, the really bred filly looks likely to appreciate the extra distance of the Chantilly classic which is live on Sky Sports Racing at 3pm Irish-time.

Joan Of Arc will also have the assistance of Spanish jockey Ioritz Mendizabal who is two from two for O’Brien in this year’s French classics.

The 47-year veteran has struck twice on St Mark’s Basilica who followed up his French 2,000 Guineas victory by memorably breaking O’Brien’s duck in the Prix Du Jockey Club.

Mendizabal has a favourable stall five draw in the 18 runner field which also includes the fancied Andre Fabre pair Philomene and Burgarita. The latter has been drawn wide however in 14.

Also taking her chance is Coeursamba who upset Mother Earth in last month’s French 1,000 and Rumi who will try to break Oliver Peslier’s own hoodoo in the Diane.

Just two Irish trained horses have ever won the French Oaks. Sweet Mimosa won for her owner-trainer Seamus McGrath in 1970. Donnacha O’Brien beat his father to the punch last year when successful with Fancy Blue.

O’Brien Snr was third on that occasion with Peaceful and in 2018 finished fourth with Happily. Rhododendron was pulled up injured the year before that.

His record in the Chantilly’s fillies feature contrasts with Epsom where Snowfall a couple of weeks ago was O’Brien’s ninth Oaks success. He has won the Irish Oaks five times.

Including the all-aged Leger, O’Brien has won 45 Irish classics. He has 40 English classics to his name. Including the Prix Royal Oaks, the Irishman has already won eight times at French classic level.

Ulster Derby

Saturday’s Boylesports Ulster Derby at Down Royal doesn’t carry the same kudos but an €80,000 prize-fund has tempted the champion trainer into sending three runners to the north’s biggest flat race of the year.

With Hector De Maris and King Of The Castle topping the weights, their stable companion Iowa looks to lurk dangerously towards the bottom of the ratings.

It is a dozen years since O’Brien has won the race which is in contrast to his former mentor Jim Bolger’s record of four wins in the last seven years.

He relies on New Reality this time but with a step up to a mile and a half, and a significant weight swing with Star Harbour in his favour, Bear Story could prove the solution.

An inside draw is important over five furlongs at Down Royal and that position could swing the opener in favour of Dream Oasis.

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