St Mark’s Basilica gave Aidan O’Brien a first victory in the Qatar Prix du Jockey Club with a brilliant effort at Chantilly.
The son of Siyouni was confidently ridden by Ioritz Mendizabal to run away from the opposition in the closing stages and join an elite band of horses to complete the French 2000 Guineas/Derby double.
St Mark’s Basilica (11-4 favourite) broke away from the stalls well and was always in a good position, close to the pace set by Normandy Bridge.
The latter led into the straight, but was quickly tackled by El Drama, who did his best to set sail for home.
Mendizabal had the move covered, however, and St Mark’s Basilica was soon in command – putting the race to bed in a matter of strides.
Sealiway (66-1) was second just ahead of the fast-finishing Millebosc in third.
Mendizabal – who performed a Frankie Dettori-style flying dismount -said: “This morning I spoke with Aidan, and he asked me not to go to the front too early, so I waited as long as I could. He was going so well that I had to go to the front a little bit further out than I wanted.
“But he has won like a horse that would stay the full Classic distance (mile and a half) and any question of him getting the (extended 10-furlong) trip today, he proved.
“He’s a very good horse. He could be an Arc de Triomphe horse in two or three months. The distance is no problem.
“I had a perfect run on the inside, and the gaps opened up very nicely for me.”
St Mark’s Basilica’s third consecutive Group One victory, and successful move up in trip, points towards a further series of possible high-profile assignments this season.
O’Brien said: “He has a lot of options, and obviously we’ll wait and see how he is when he comes back and see where we go.
“The Eclipse, the Champion Stakes – all those types of races – would be very strong possibles for him. It will depend on how he is and see what the lads (owners Coolmore) want to do.”
Reflecting on the emphatic victory, he added: “We’re delighted. Ioritz gave him a brilliant ride.
“Ioritz is a great rider and rode for us in Deauville last year – and we were very impressed.
“He’s a world-class rider, and we’re so delighted to get him.”
Soft ground has prevailed in all of St Mark’s Basilica’s four career victories to date, but O’Brien stressed he has nothing to fear on a quicker surface.
“We think he doesn’t mind (any type of) ground,” he said.
“We were a little bit worried about the distance, because he’s a horse with so much speed – (so) we weren’t sure about that.
“But everybody was confident he would get the trip – (and) he has form with easy ground as well. We think he’s very versatile really.
“Initially, we were worried about him running on soft ground – and it’s just the way it’s worked out.
“He moves like a very good ground horse, but obviously he has worked on the soft ground – but it’s just because the races he’s run in have come up that way really.
“You would imagine with his action he should be more effective on good ground. He’s a lovely-moving horse – he doesn’t bend his knee much. He puts his legs straight out in front of him – that all suggests good ground should suit him better.”
O’Brien senses a move further up in trip is more open to question.
He said: “Frankie (Dettori), who rode him in the Dewhurst last year, (and all the staff at home) always felt that a mile and a quarter was within his compass – even though he is a horse that has a lot of speed and, as you can see, he quickens very well and always has done.
“I think it’s very possible (he could stay a mile and a half). But he obviously has a lot of speed, and you couldn’t be sure until he’s run that far.
“You definitely couldn’t be sure – but obviously it is possible, because he relaxes and quickens so well.”
On stablemate Van Gogh who finished 10th, O’Brien said: “He ran well. We were very happy with the run.
“We felt he was a horse who was going to stay well and there is a chance the step up to a mile and half will suit him.
“Colin (Keane) was very happy to go up in trip again with him.”
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