St Mark’s Basilica earns Aidan O’Brien a first French Derby triumph

11-4 favourite completes French 2000 Guineas/Derby double at Chantilly

Spanish jockey Ioritz Mendizabal stands up in his irons to celebrate  St Mark’s Basilica’s win in the Qatar Prix du Jockey Club at  Chantilly. Photograph: Bertrand  Guay/AFP via Getty Images

Spanish jockey Ioritz Mendizabal stands up in his irons to celebrate St Mark’s Basilica’s win in the Qatar Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly. Photograph: Bertrand Guay/AFP via Getty Images

 

Aidan O’Brien landed a first French Derby success when St Mark’s Basilica bossed his rivals at Chantilly on Sunday.

A day after Bolshoi Ballet fluffed his lines when favourite for Saturday’s Epsom Derby won by Adayar, his stable companion made no mistake in the €1.5 million Qatar Prix Du Jockey Club.

Just like Adayar at Epsom, St Mark’s Basilica got a perfect run up the inside rail to back up last month’s success in the French 2,000 Guineas.

Again ridden by the veteran 47-year-old Spaniard Ioritz Mendizabal, the 11-4 favourite was always in charge in beating the 66-1 outsider Sealiway with Millebsoc in third.

O’Brien’s other runner Van Gogh never threatened.

It was perfect consolation for the Ballydoyle team after Bolshoi Ballet’s underwhelming effort and 24 years after his first runner in the race – and 19 other beaten horses – O’Brien finally secured the third leg of European racing’s big three Derby races.

Successful eight times at Epsom, he has also won the Irish Derby on 14 occasions.

The only major European Classic left for O’Brien to win is the French Oaks, the Prix de Diane, in which he expects to be represented again back at Chantilly in two weeks’ time.

St Mark’s Basilica is just the third Irish-trained winner of the ‘Jockey Club’ after Assert and Caerleon won back to back in 1982 and 1983.

Both of those went on to contest the Irish Derby but with High Definition pencilled in for the Curragh Classic, immediate bookmaker reaction was to make St Mark’s Basilica a 7-2 shot for the Eclipse at Sandown over the same 10-furlong trip.

In the longer term he is also towards the top of betting for the Arc in October alongside Friday’s spectacular Oaks heroine Snowfall and their older stable companion, Love.

At Chantilly, Mendizabal, who was winning the French Derby for a second year running after riding Mishriff in 2020, said the longer distance of the Arc would be “no problem” for St Mark’s Basilica.

O’Brien described the colt as “very exciting” and said: “When a horse can quicken like that, very few horses can do it.”

Adam Kirby celebrates on top of Adayar after winning the Cazoo Derby at Epsom on Saturday. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/PA Wire
Adam Kirby celebrates on top of Adayar after winning the Cazoo Derby at Epsom on Saturday. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/PA Wire

He also reported Bolshoi Ballet to be “sore” after his run at Epsom where he sustained a cut on a hind leg which he believed was sustained early in the race.

“He travelled well through the race but didn’t change gear,” O’Brien said before adding it will be a week to 10 days before any plans for Bolshoi Ballet are made.

Travel restrictions from Britain to France meant Ryan Moore missed out on the French Derby winner but no jockey was left to rue his misfortune more at the weekend than Oisín Murphy.

Originally booked to ride Adayar, a game of musical jockey chairs prompted by Ballydoyle having just the one runner ended up with Murphy losing the ride to Adam Kirby.

Not only did Murphy have to watch history unfold in front of him, having agreed to give a race commentary for a promotional video he also had to deal with a crushing case of ‘what might have been’ while on camera.

In the circumstances the 25-year-old from Killarney was superbly composed.

“The ride I’ve given up . . . but well done to Adam Kirby. He’s streaking clear in the Epsom Derby . . . hats off to Adayar . . . a brilliant result for connections. That’s racing and hopefully I’ll get my day in the next few years,” he said.

That seems a lot more likely than Kirby winning the Derby did.

The 32-year-old English jockey had been ‘jocked off’ John Leeper in favour of Frankie Dettori on Wednesday night. But as that horse faded to ninth, Adayar made a mockery of his apparent third-string status for the Godolphin team.

Sheikh Mohammed’s operation enjoyed perhaps the best day in its near 30-year history as Essential Quality later landed the final leg of the US Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, in New York on Saturday night.

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