The two French Guineas fall two weeks later in the European calendar than the Newmarket originals on which they are modeled and how Aidan O’Brien used the extra 15 days available to his advantage, as St Mark’s Basilica swept past his toiling rivals to success under an ice-cool Ioritz Mendizabal.
Where Wembley and his stablemates had struggled to be on their A-game first up in the QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas (G1), St Mark’s Basilica shrugged off his long break with ease and demonstrated exactly why he was rated the winter Guineas favorite before the Coolmore brains trust had opted to wait for the Emirates Poule d’Essai des Poulains (G1) May 16.
But Jim Bolger’s audacious bid to win two classics in the space of 15 days foundered as Poetic Flare failed to respond to Kevin Manning’s urgings and finished back in sixth, not far off the places but surely below the form he demonstrated in landing the classic at Newmarket.
St Mark’s Basilica was bred in France and O’Brien reflected that this was a delayed first visit to ParisLongchamp for the son of Siyouni , who was rerouted to Britain’s best 2-year-old race when the Ballydoyle horses were ruled out of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) meeting due to feed contamination.
“I’m delighted with him,” said O’Brien. “The plan last year was to go to the Lagardere (G1) but that obviously didn’t work out and that’s why he ended up going to the Dewhurst. Wembley was going to the Dewhurst (G1) initially so that’s how everything changed around at the end of last season.”
Watching on from Naas, O’Brien said: “He quickens very well. We’ll see what we’ll do now—he has the option of Ascot for the St. James’s Palace Stakes (G1) or back to France for their Derby (the Prix du Jockey Club, G1). The original plan with him was to go for the French Guineas and then go back there for the French Derby so we’ll see.
“He’d been working lovely,” added O’Brien. “You saw the way he progressed last year. They all couldn’t go to Newmarket. They were all trained for Newmarket, but we had to split them up. When he was supposed to go to France last year, we said we’d stick that way. John (Magnier), Michael (Tabor), and Derrick (Smith) thought it was better to go to France with him.”
O’Brien’s plans had been disrupted after his original choice to ride St Mark’s Basilica, Pierre-Charles Boudot, was suspended due to an ongoing legal case.
He said of supersub Mendizabal: “Ioritz rode Lope Y Fernandez to finish second for us at Deauville last year. He was very cool there today.”
Mendizabal has enjoyed a golden period as travel for jockeys has been restricted during the pandemic and this success followed on from last season’s Prix du Jockey Club aboard Mishriff for John Gosden and a Darley Prix Jean Romanet (G1) victory for James Fanshawe with Audarya .
The 47-year-old Mendizabal said: “I was a bit cautious before setting him alight because he’s been off a long time and so I took my time. But he settled it in two strides. He has that acceleration you only see with the cracks.
“I only got the call from my agent at 2 p.m. on Friday and it was a surprise. There’s enormous personal satisfaction in being entrusted with the ride by Aidan O’Brien.
“When you’re sitting on a Formula One car like him 250 meters from the winning post in a classic it’s a great feeling and it’s why we do this job.”
Gianluca Bietolini, based in Maisons-Laffitte, could be nothing but proud of Colosseo, whose best performance at 2 was when runner-up in a Deauville listed race and who had finished third over course and distance in his conditions-race prep.
“I have no voice left!” said Bietolini. “I knew he came here in top form and he showed it. The ground was too quick for him last time and he’s a much better horse on very soft ground like this. He’s completely atypical for an American-bred.”