Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John ‘Susan' Magnier, and Derrick Smith's three-year-old phenom, ST MARK'S BASILICA, turned back the challenges of TARNAWA and POETIC FLARE in a pulsating stretch drive to capture Saturday's $800,000 Win and You're In Irish Champion Stakes (G1) at Leopardstown, Ireland.
Now a winner of five consecutive Grade 1 races, ST MARK'S BASILICA earned himself an automatic berth into the Breeder's Cup Turf (G1) via the Breeder's Cup Challenge Series, scheduled for Saturday November 6th at Del Mar.
Winning trainer Aiden O'Brien achieved his third consecutive Irish Champions title and tenth overall.
"It was great because it was tactical," said O'Brien after the race. "They sprinted up the straight and he did well. One thing we know he does is quicken. He really quickens. His strong qualities are that he relaxes and can really turn it on. He has done that in every race."
Sent off at odds of 4-5 in the four-horse field, and ridden by jockey Ryan Moore, ST MARK'S BASILICA raced in third, no more than 3-4 lengths off of 40-1 pacesetter PATRICK SARSFIELD and presser POETIC FLARE, while TARNAWA was content to trail the field.
Their positions remained virtually unchanged for almost the entire race.
Then, on the final turn, the big three turned on the jets. ST MARK'S BASILICA, TARNAWA, and POETIC FLAIR dashed for home, almost inseparable. The replay is shown below.
POETIC FLARE held a brief advantage, while ST MARK'S BASILICA and TARNAWA unleashed their rally from the outside. ST MARK'S BASILICA and Ryan Moore began drifting outward in the stretch, in a competitive display of rider-tactics, carrying TARNAWA wide toward the near side. Still, any of the three had a chance to win it. No more than a length separated them.
But in the final yards, it was the unrelenting French-Bred ST MARK'S BASILICA with the faster foot; he forged past POETIC FLARE to his inside and kept TARNAWA at bay to cross the line first by three-parts of a length.
TARNAWA got up for second, POETIC FLARE settled for third. It was a distance back to PATRICK SARSFIELD. The final time for the 1 1/4 miles was 2:11.19 on a course rated as good.
The racing stewards inquired after the race but the results remained unchanged.
Bred by Robert Scarborough, ST MARK'S BASILICA is a three-year-old son of SIYOUNI out of CABARET by GALILEO. He improves his record to 9: 6-1-1, grows his earnings to over $2.97 million, and remains unbeaten in four starts this year.
While he's invited to run in the Breeder's Cup Turf (G1), no decision has been made over his next race. The Prix De l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) on October 3rd is also possibility.
Source: Breeder's Cup, Horse Racing Nation