Joan Of Arc completes full house of European Classics for Aidan O’Brien

Irish trainer wins French Oaks at Chantilly for the first time to complete clean sweep

Jockey Ioritz Mendizabal performs a flying dismount from  Joan Of Arc after riding the Aidan O’Brien-trained filly to win the  Prix de Diane at Chantilly. Photograph:  Bertrand Guay/AFP via Getty Images

Jockey Ioritz Mendizabal performs a flying dismount from Joan Of Arc after riding the Aidan O’Brien-trained filly to win the Prix de Diane at Chantilly. Photograph: Bertrand Guay/AFP via Getty Images

 

Aidan O’Brien completed a career clean sweep of Europe’s major Classics when Joan Of Arc finally delivered her trainer a French Oaks success on Sunday.

After St Mark’s Basilica’s French Derby win earlier this month the €1 million Prix De Diane was the only one of the Classics in Ireland, England and France that O’Brien hadn’t won during his stellar career.

However, veteran jockey Ioritz Mendizabal once again proved a crucial element as Joan Of Arc became just the third ever Irish-trained winner of the Chantilly Classic.

O’Brien’s son Donnacha saddled Fancy Blue to win a year ago while Séamus McGrath won with Sweet Mimosa in 1970.

Mendizabal had Joan Of Arc close to a slow early pace set by Sibila Spain, the eventual fourth.

Although briefly appearing to struggle in the straight the 4-1 shot hit the front inside the final furlong, holding on to beat the 3-1 favourite Philomene by three quarters of a length with the latter’s stable companion Burgarita in third.

It was also a first French Oaks for the 47-year-old Spanish rider.

With travel restrictions in place from Britain to France, Mendizabal has formed a formidable partnership with O’Brien’s French runners this season and has won both the 2,000 Guineas and Derby there on St Mark’s Basilica.

“For me its unimaginable and completely magical. I was in a perfect position to strike but when I asked her for effort the leader wasn’t coming back and I wasn’t sure I would get there. She’s a good filly to run them down,” Mendizabal reported.

“Aidan O’Brien is my Father Christmas! He has brought over two crack rides for me, one colt, one filly. He never says ‘do this, do that,’ just ride them how you feel them. I love to ride like that,” he added.

Although O’Brien already has two fillies, Snowfall and Love, at the top of the betting for October’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe his latest Classic star is 20-1 to prove an evocatively named winner of that race.

O’Brien has now won three of the four French Classics run this year and was runner-up in the 1,000 Guineas at Longchamp with Mother Earth.

In other news, Irish racing’s regulatory body has said it would welcome the chance to appear in front of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture in relation to high-profile claims of doping in the sport by top trainer Jim Bolger.

The Committee meets on Monday to consider a proposal by one TD about inviting the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) to appear before it at some point.

Fine Gael TD Paul Kehoe has said he is very concerned about Bolger’s claims regarding doping and his lack of confidence in the IHRB.

Bolger has said he believes “there will be a Lance Armstrong in Irish racing” in reference to the disgraced former Tour de France winner.

The IHRB has met with Bolger a number of times on the back of the trainer’s claims that a level playing field doesn’t apply in Irish racing, comments he first made last year.

It has prompted criticism of racing’s regulatory body, although a spokesman was reluctant to deal with queries into any specific investigation on Sunday.

“We look into any serious claims that are made by any stakeholder and hence the reason we would be very keen for anyone to use the confidential hotline if they feel they have any information about any aspect of the sport and the integrity of the sport that they feel might be of interest to us,” he said.

The spokesman added that the IHRB, which will receive over €10 million from the industry’s semi-State ruling body, Horse Racing Ireland, this year is keen to explain its anti-doping policy to the Agriculture Committee.

“We have not received any invite but we would welcome any opportunity to bring the deputies through our equine anti-doping strategy and talk them through the advances that have been made in recent years. If it comes we would welcome the opportunity to talk about it,” he said.

After securing a first Royal Ascot success with Quick Suzy in the Queen Mary Stakes last week, Gavin Cromwell is pursuing a Flat victory with a National Hunt horse at Ballinrobe on Monday.

My Mate Mozzie, bought for £205,000 (€238,600) following a point-to-point win, subsequently landed a bumper at the Punchestown festival.

Cromwell pitches him into a mile-and-a-half maiden at the Co Mayo track and Dewcup’s 77 rating doesn’t look an insurmountable standard to overcome for a horse whose future is over obstacles.

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