An announcement over the future of five-time Group One winner St Mark’s Basilica is likely to be made early next week, Aidan O’Brien said at Newmarket on Saturday.
The brilliant colt extended his sequence of victories at the top level with victory in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown a fortnight ago but the success was only confirmed after a lengthy stewards’ inquiry as he hung violently right in the closing stages, taking Tarnawa, the runner-up, with him.
There has been a school of thought that St Mark’s Basilica might have been feeling the effects of an earlier cut, suffered at exerciuse, which became infected. That injury had forced him to miss an earlier intended engagement in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York.
O'Brien tells Lydia Hislop about Tenebrism and the latest on St Mark's Basilica
Since winning at Leopardstown, the colt has apparently still been sore in the same area and, as a consequence, been unable to resume full work.
That would suggest a run in the QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot in just three weeks’ time is in serious jeopardy, and the Breeders’ Cup in America follows only a fortnight later.
Given that St Mark’s Basilica has little or nothing left to prove – he has already shone over distances between 7f and 1m2f and is the highest-rated horse in the world - and is such a precious stallion prospect for Coolmore, the odds on him being retired without another race must now be very short.
“We built him up to full canters and he got a little bit sore, and then we pulled back off him,” O’Brien said to Lydia Hislop after Tenebrism and Luxembourg had given him a big-race double either side of the Irish Sea.
Watch how St Mark's Basilica drifted right in the Irish Champion
“We spoke to the lads yesterday (Friday) about him and I said we still haven’t built him back into full work. The lads asked me ‘could that have affected him in Leopardstown’ and obviously you couldn’t say it didn’t because he’s always run as a straight as a gun barrel before, and I don’t know why he veered a bit to the right. He came back and he was a bit sore, where the wound was, and he’s not in full work.
“They are thinking about it over the weekend and I’m hoping then we will have something Monday as to where we are going to go, or what we are going to do. That’s where we are with him.”
St Mark’s Basilica was champion two-year-old after winning the Dewhurst and won the French 2000 Guineas, French Derby and Coral-Eclipse before his triumph at Leopardstown.
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