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Blackbeard and The Antarctic seek to bridge 23-year void for O'Brien in Papin

Blackbeard: will bid to resume winning ways in the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin on Sunday
Blackbeard: will bid to resume winning ways in the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin on SundayCredit: Patrick McCann (

Darley Prix Robert Papin (Group 2) | 6f | 2yo | Sky

One of the many ways in which Aidan O'Brien has marked himself out as a generational training talent has been the way he doesn't just go round ticking big races off a career list and then discarding them.

His record in the British and Irish Classics is that of a man who never saw a number of wins in a given race he didn't want to improve on.

So it is something of a surprise to discover that Blackbeard and The Antarctic are only his fourth and fifth runners in this historic prize, and his first since Colossus and Haydn ran second and seventh in 2003.

His only other runner? Rossini, who won the Papin in 1999. In a career such as O'Brien's, that is a significant break.

Perhaps it is an indication of the strength of the current Ballydoyle crop of juveniles that two have been set aside for this race just 24 hours after the Group 3 Anglesey Stakes at the Curragh.

Blackbeard ran with plenty of credit when fourth in the Coventry and backed it up with a narrow defeat to Shartash in the Railway Stakes.

The son of No Nay Never was beaten favourite on both occasions without doing a great deal wrong and will be vying for market favouritism on merit rather than trainer reputation.

Owner-breeder Nurlan Bizakov with Belbek after the colt's Group-race breakthrough in the Prix du Bois at Chantilly
Owner-breeder Nurlan Bizakov with Belbek after the colt's Group-race breakthrough in the Prix du Bois at ChantillyCredit: Racing Post / Scott Burton

The last eight winners of the Papin were all trained in Britain and it is perhaps surprising there are no candidates to extend that sequence, albeit travelling horses in near record temperatures and with the potential for significant delays at the Channel ports might be at play.

In addition, France may possess a worthy contender in Belbek, who posted some deceptively fast fractions when easing past Lova in the Group 3 Prix du Bois over course and distance four weeks ago.

Remarkably, he was the only colt in the ten-runner line-up in the Bois, but he looks a serious player to give Andre Fabre his first win in the Papin.

O'Brien: Blackbeard takes everything in his stride

Blackbeard appears to be the O'Brien first string and will have the assistance of Ioritz Mendizabal, who became something of a Ballydoyle talisman during the various spells of Covid-enforced travel restrictions.

The Antarctic, who will be ridden by Mickael Barzalona, has 9lb to find with his stablemate on official ratings, although O'Brien feels he had excuses when only third behind Wodao in a Tipperary Listed contest last time.

The champion trainer said: "Blackbeard is a very hardy horse who takes his racing well. He seems to have travelled over well and taken everything in his stride. We've been very happy with him.

"The Antarctic had a good run the last day at Tipperary. He missed the break a little bit and lost a couple of lengths, but he was coming home well."

What they say

Tony Fry, racing and stud manager for Nurlan Bizakov, owner of Belbek
It's another step up against another class of horse. But Monsieur Fabre likes him and we were quite surprised how quickly he got to the track. He's bred from a Juddmonte family that didn't feature five-furlong runners, but when the trainer says he's ready, you go to the races. The first time I saw him run at Saint-Cloud he was a hand bigger than everything else in the parade ring. He's not a fly-by-night two-year-old by the look of him.

Mauricio Delcher Sanchez, trainer of Vicious Harry
The horses that finished around us in the Prix Fleche [Wootton City and Sivana] finished one-two in a Listed at Deauville the other day so the form looks solid. It was only his second run and confirmed what we thought of him. He did a little too much too early last time but we've worked on that in the mornings. I think he'll get 1,200 metres [six furlongs] fine.

Florien Guyader, trainer of Bottle Of Bubbles
She won very well in Italy when coming from last to first. This will be harder of course and she's up against some proper horses here, but she is well and these are the races she needs to be running in.

Ludovic Gadbin, trainer of Lova
I hope the two Irish horses will put some extra pace in the race because the last time she was in front pretty early and that never makes things easy. I'm eager to see how she will go at this level.

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Scott BurtonFrance correspondent
Published on 16 July 2022Last updated 18:49, 16 July 2022