It was a perfect Saturday for Aidan O’Brien
and Ryan Moore as St Mark’s Basilica powered to victory in an Irish Champion
Stakes for the ages, writes Jack Lacey-Hatton.
Unbeaten this season, the three-year-old was pushed hard by both a charging Tarnawa and Poetic Flare in a thrilling three-way battle that truly lived up to the pre-race hype but managed to hold both illustrious rivals off in a flying finish.
After winning both the French derby and French 2,000 Guineas, this stellar performance confirmed beyond any doubt, St Mark’s status as one of the best in the world.
A stewards’ enquiry was required to confirm the result after the winner carried second-placed Tarnawa, piloted by Colin Keane, right across the track but the interference did not change the outcome.
The win gave O’Brien a third straight victory in this race, after Magical’s back-to-back wins in 2019 and 2020, and 10
“He is an exceptional horse really, isn’t he?,” he said.
“We are very lucky to have him, obviously. The whole team around him have been great.
“It was a great race, because it was tactical, very tactical.
“They sprinted up the straight and he did well. One thing we knew about him was he quickens.
“He has an explosive turn of foot. His strong qualities are that he relaxes and knows when to turn it on and he has done that in every race.”
The eventual winner went off 5-6 favourite but was given a huge test in the closing stages by both Breeders’ Cup winner Tarnawa and Jim Bolger’s dual Group 1 champion Poetic Flare, with both leaving everything they had out on the course.
There may have only been four runners – the smallest field this showpiece clash has seen – but it was a compelling contest from the outset for the 4,000 fans in attendance to savour.
In what was billed as a tactical battle, the one mile two furlong trip didn’t was never an issue for St Mark’s Basilica.
Neither he, nor Tarnawa, who won here last month, wanted to show their hand early on, happily cruising at rear.
But when the pace quickened Moore’s ride looked to have the edge, although it was closely fought right up to the post.
The run from Tarnawa won’t raise any doubts over her l'Arc de Triomphechances, the filly showing real heart up the home straight.
Meanwhile, after another major win, O’Brien remains unsure of the next step for the champion.
He said: “The two targets he had were York and here.
“After that, we wanted to see how he came out of it and then look to see where to go.
“He has all the options. He can go back to a mile or go to a mile and a quarter.
“He could do all those things, but let’s see how is after this.”