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Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Will St Mark's Basilica become an all-time great?

St Mark's Basilica has been one of the outstanding horses of the 2021 flat racing season due to the quality of his performances in the UK and France. The French thoroughbred won his opening three races of the season, dominating the field in his home country at Longchamp and Chantilly before making an excellent debut run at Sandown Park to win the Coral-Eclipse.

Now he has the challenge of building on his success in major meets towards the end of the campaign on both sides of the English Channel. Should St Mark's Basilica deliver victories in all of his remaining races, Aidan O’Brien’s charge will go down in history as one of the best horses to compete on the flat. 

However, there's a long road ahead for him, despite being the top contender for the International Stakes at Ebor Festival. St Mark's Basilica will face a talented field, but he's backed in the Ebor 2021 betting odds at 4/5 to emerge with the victory in his first appearance at York Racecourse. In terms of precaution in the lead-up to this race, O’Brien has been selective with his charge this term, refraining from sending him to Royal Ascot and the Derby among other leading meets in the UK. He's had a solid debut season where he reeled off victories at Curragh and at Newmarket in the Darley Dewhurst Stakes. 

St Mark's Basilica took his game to a new level when he opened his 2021 season at Longchamp in the Emirates Poule d'Essai des Poulains. He was a slight outsider for the win in the minds of the bookmakers, who considered future Guineas’ winner Poetic Flare the favourite. However, the bay gelding was on point to claim the win by a comfortable margin ahead of Colosseo.

 

He followed that performance with another strong display at the Qatar Prix du Jockey Club in Chantilly. The French thoroughbred maintained a solid pace before upping the ante in the closing stages of the contest to beat out Sealiway by one-and-three-quarter lengths. As a result, he had the momentum to take to the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in his first appearance of the season in the UK. With Ryan Moore in the saddle, St Mark's Basilica did not disappoint on the track as he stormed to victory by a dominant margin ahead of his nearest rival Addeybb, who was three-and-a-half lengths off the pace.

   

All eyes will now be on O’Brien’s charge to see if he can enjoy a famous end to the campaign. The International Stakes will be a tough challenge but will be the strongest horse on paper entering the meet. Next on the agenda will be the Irish Champion Stakes followed by a huge contest at Longchamp in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Given his experience in France this term, St Mark's Basilica will be one of the top contenders for the crown, although it has been five years since O’Brien triumphed in the meet. Further down the line, the British Champion Series will take centre stage before a trip to the US for the Breeders’ Cup Mile. St Mark's Basilica must be ready for a long end to the campaign where he could etch his name in the history of the sport as one of the greats. He has the talent, but only time will tell whether he can produce flawless performances on a number of grand stages.

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