By Duane Fonseca
Aidan O’Brien might have been denied by Charlie Appleby in the Derby at Epsom, but it wasn’t in the stars for the legendary Irish handler to leave Chantilly empty-handed as he locked in his first Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club victory following a superb finish from St Mark’s Basilica in the 2100m turf affair.
In winning by a length and three fourths, the 3yo Siyouni colt up picked up a second French Classic, following up on his victory by the same margin under Ioritz Mendizabal in the Emirates Poule d’Essai des Poulains over 1600m at ParisLongchamp.
St Mark’s Basilica was confidently ridden again by Spanish jockey Mendizabal, with the pair running away from the opposition in the closing stages to join an elite band of horses that completed the French 2000 Guineas-Derby double.
Favourite to win breaking from the stalls, St Mark’s Basilica jumped well and was always in a good position, close to the pace set by the Stephanie Nigge schooled Normandy Bridge, who guided the field into the straight.
Normandy Bridge was tackled soon after by El Drama, with Mendizabal watching closely along the rail. However, with 400m left, the Spaniard pulled the trigger and St Mark’s Basilica flew to the front taking over from Frederic Rossi’s Sealiway with Franck Blondel up. In a matter of strides, Mendizabal and his partner had the race put to bed and eased up just before the finish allowing for a length and three fourths victory.
Sealiway took second, just a short head of Nigge’s fast-finishing Millebosc, who was third in the hands of Gregory Benoist.
Mendizabal performed a Frankie Dettori-style flying dismount in the winners’ enclosure and said: “This morning I spoke with Aidan, and he asked me not to go to the front too early, so I waited as long as I could. He was going so well that I had to go to the front a little bit further out than I wanted.
“But he has won like a horse that would stay the full Classic distance (mile and a half) and any question of him getting the (extended 10-furlong) trip today, he proved.
“He’s a very good horse. He could be an Arc de Triomphe horse in two or three months. The distance is no problem.
“I had a perfect run on the inside and the gaps opened up very nicely for me.”
On Saturday, O’Brien had faced the disappointment of watching his Derby favourite Bolshoi Ballet run in second behind Adayar trained by Appleby for Godolphin.