St Mark’s Basilica bids to end O’Brien’s long wait for French Derby success

European champion two year old an impressive winner of French 2,000 Guineas last month

St Mark’s Basilica: carries the mantle of favouritism into Sunday’s French Derby at Chantilly. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

St Mark’s Basilica: carries the mantle of favouritism into Sunday’s French Derby at Chantilly. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Aidan O’Brien’s unequalled Epsom dominance underlines the most glaring omission in his classic CV which he will finally hope to put right in Sunday’s French Derby.

Both the favourite St Mark’s Basilica and his stable companion Van Gogh line up in the €1.5 million Qatar Prix Du Jockey Club due off at 3.00 Irish-time.

Having first tried to win the Chantilly classic in 1997, the closest O’Brien has got to success was when Highland Reel finished runner-up to New Bay in 2015.

If in the past there was often a ‘B-list’ element to the Ballydoyle team sent to Chantilly in comparison to Epsom but it appears very different this time.

St Mark’s Basilica, last year’s European champion two year old, returned to action this season with a hugely impressive success in last month’s French 2,000 Guineas.

Ballydoyle’s sole male classic winner of the year to date is reunited with veteran Spanish jockey Ioritz Mendizabal who landed last year’s Jockey Club on the John Gosden ‘spare’ Mishriff.

Travel restrictions from Britain to France mean O’Brien has turned to Colin Keane for the ride on Van Gogh, third to Mac Swiney in the Irish Guineas a fortnight ago.

He has been drawn in stall 12 of the 19 runners while St Mark’s Basilica is near the rail in two.

Mendizabal could have to navigate an inside run but it looks preferable to the task facing two of the main home hopes, Makaloun and Cheshire Academy, who are hung out on the outside in boxes 18 and 19.

Donegal rider Martin Harley has been in quarantine in Paris this week ahead of riding Derab for the Gosden team who will also be represented by Megallen, the mount of veteran star, Olivier Peslier.

Before flying to Paris Colin Keane will be busy in all eight races at Listowel on Saturday which kicks off three days of action at the Kerry track.

The most interesting of them looks to be Dermot Weld’s Probe, an impressive seven length winner of a maiden at Killarney last time, and who is given the task of conceding weight all round in a conditions event.

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