St Mark’s Basilica (5/6f) won his fifth Group 1 race when winning the €1,000,000 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, Dublin, on Saturday.
The son of Siyouni yet again staked his claim to being not only the best three-year-old in training but arguably being the best racehorse currently in training worldwide.
He had missed his most recent entry in the Juddmonte International at York due to a minor setback, meaning his Leopardstown outing was his run first in 10 weeks.
In what was a disappointing field in terms of quantity, with just four, the Irish Champion Stakes, was, as usual, a race of top quality contest.
St Mark’s Basilica had already won the Emirates Poule d’Essais des Poulains at Longchamp in May, the Qatar Prix du Jockey Club in June and the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, England, in July, prior to today’s fourth success of the season at the highest level.
Patrick Sarsfield, handled by former Breeders’ Cup-winning rider and trainer, Joseph O’Brien, set the early pace in the 1 mile 2 furlong contest, rated the second-highest race in the world last year. The 33/1 outsider, with an official rating of 112, would eventually finish fourth, and last, eight and a quarter lengths behind the winner.
The ever-brave and consistent Poetic Flare, bred, owned and trained by Jim Bolger, was having his eight run of the season, and began the race as 4/1 third favourite. The winner of the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on 1 May also won the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, having run second and sixth respectively in both the Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas at The Curragh and the Emirates Poules d’Essais des Poulains at Longchamp in the meantime.
Ridden by Bolger’s son-in-law the veteran jockey Kevin Manning, Poetic Flare battled on the rail in the home stretch only to find two too good for him at the wire. Despite finishing third, the son of Dawn Approach was only three-quarters of one length behind the winner.
Tarnawa, undefeated in her last five outings, including Group 1 wins in the Qatar Prix Vermeille at Longchamp in September 2020, the Prix de l’Opera Longines last October also at Longchamp, before taking the Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland the following month, started Saturday’s race as 9/4 second favourite for handler Dermot Weld and jockey Colin Keane.
In the home straight, Keane delivered the Aga Khan-owned filly with a determined effort on the outside of St Mark’s Basilica and Ryan Moore. The favourite failed to run a straight line and veered to his right, forcing Tarnawa to move further right, heading towards the Grandstand side of the racetrack.
Though the horses did not touch, it looked as though Tarnawa was unable to produce her best effort, with just three-quarters of a length separating the pair at the finishing line. Despite a Stewards’ Enquiry being called, the result was not amended as the Aidan O’Brien-conditioned colt did not directly interfere with the eventual runner-up.
St Mark’s Basilica remains unbeaten for 2021 with Group 1 wins in both Ireland and France. The winning trainer mentioned post race that all options over a mile and a mile and a quarter were open to his stable star.
St Mark’s Basilica now qualifies for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November at Del Mar; US audiences may have an opportunity by season’s end to see the top-class colt.
Photos: St Mark’s Basilica ( Breandán Ó hUallacháin photos)