Star sophomore St Mark’s Basilica passed his first test versus elders in grand style in Saturday’s Eclipse S. (G1) at Sandown. Storming past older celebrities Addeybb and Mishriff, the favorite handed trainer Aidan O’Brien a record-tying sixth win in the summer feature.
St Mark’s Basilica had won three straight Group 1 prizes in his own age group. Last year’s European highweight juvenile on the strength of his Dewhurst (G1) victory, the Coolmore colt returned to his native France this season to turn a classic double. The son of Siyouni progressed from the metric mile of the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) (G1) to the about 1 5/16 miles of the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) (G1) and proved equally effective.
Yet the Eclipse represented his stiffest test so far, as a world-class clash of generations. Mishriff, the 2020 French Derby hero, was coming off a superb double of his own in the Saudi Cup on dirt and Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) on turf. Elder statesman Addeybb, last seen repeating in Australia’s lucrative Queen Elizabeth S. (G1), has British Group 1 bona fides as well as the winner of last fall’s Champion S. (G1) at Ascot.
Addeybb went straight to the lead, stalked by Mishriff. St Mark’s Basilica was content to travel in third, and the outsider of the quartet, fellow three-year-old El Drama, trailed.
The strong-traveling Mishriff appeared to have Addeybb’s measure entering the straight. With Addeybb coming under pressure, Mishriff put his head in front and hinted at pulling away.
But when Ryan Moore urged on St Mark’s Basilica, the response was emphatic. Gaining momentum to draw alongside Mishriff and the stubborn Addeybb, St Mark’s Basilica took off in the final furlong to win by 3 1/2 resounding lengths.
Addeybb came again to edge Mishriff by a neck for runner-up honors. Another 2 3/4 lengths back came El Drama.
St Mark’s Basilica negotiated about 1 1/4 miles in 2:10.87 on a course labeled good to soft. His resume now reads 8-5-1-1, including a third in the Vincent O’Brien National S. (G1) when he was still getting his bearings at two.
A half-brother to Coolmore’s Magna Grecia, hero of the 2018 Vertem Futurity Trophy (G1) and the 2000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket in 2019, St Mark’s Basilica is out of the Group 3-winning Galileo mare Cabaret. This is the further family of Grade/Group 1 scorers Frenchpark and Pearly Shells.
O’Brien mentioned the Aug. 18 Juddmonte International (G1) and Sept. 11 Irish Champion (G1) as logical possibilities. Should St Mark’s Basilica advance to the Juddmonte, he’d likely get a rematch with Mishriff, whose co-trainer John Gosden expects a better performance at York. Gosden cited his freshness off the layoff as a factor in his third in the Eclipse.
St Mark’s Basilica joins an illustrious list of O’Brien’s Eclipse winners. His first three were also sophomores – Giant’s Causeway (2000), Hawk Wing (2002), and Oratorio (2005) – while his past two were older horses Mount Nelson (2008) and So You Think (2011).
“I don’t remember coming to an Eclipse as strong as this with a three-year-old before,” O’Brien said. “They (Addeybb and Mishriff) were two proper older horses, and he gave them a couple of lengths.”
O’Brien offered more illuminating comments, as reported by racingtv.com:
“Horses come from all angles, but you can only have one of them (top class) every year and if you get one you are very lucky, you can’t expect to get many.
“For all the horses we’ve had down the years I can’t remember we’ve had one like that. We’ve had horses who get into battle and brawl it out, but he’s very happy to follow horses and quicken – he puts races to bed very quickly and that’s what he did again today. He’s just a bit different.”