FOUR didn’t harm the Beatles or Abba, and Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were pretty great in the Gospels.
But let’s face it, four (hopefully) in today’s Coral Eclipse in Sandown are disappointing to say the least, even if they’re a relatively select quartet.
It is what it is, so all we have to do is try to make the most of a fascinating four piece puzzle.
Now you may not know, but it all started with a hijack for the first St. Mark’s Basilica, but if the horse version takes over today’s feature in Sandown there will be absolutely no theft.
Aidan O’Brien’s dual classic hero – who was also a brilliant youngster – takes on Mishriff, Addeybb and the outclassed El Drama on the top ITV network.
The weight gain (8. 11lb versus 9st 7lb from its two main rivals) is going to be hard to beat, and in my opinion it was the most impressive three year old colt of the season. Even if the hero of the 2000 Guineas, Poetic Flare, was great at St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
By the way, as always important to learn something, the first St. Mark’s Basilica was built in the 9th century to house very sacred relics – albeit stolen.
In 828 Venice merchants stole the body of St. Mark the Evangelist, one of the four apostles, from Alexandria, Egypt.
According to legend, they smuggled them past the guards by hiding them under layers of pork in barrels. Nice to see they loved pork belly as much as I did!
Oddly enough, considering he was the formidable Dewhurst hero in Newmarket, O’Brien tells me that St. Mark’s Basilica would always begin its classic career in France.
While his stable mates Wembley and Battleground flopped at the HQ, the St. Mark’s Basilica took a tremendous turn to land the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000) in Longchamp and followed over the eclipse journey of a mile and a half in the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby). Both successes came on soft ground and he traveled like a dream.
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St. Mark’s Basilica would be O’Brien’s sixth Eclipse winner and a worthy winner of the great race that so often produced a true star of the turf in the battle of the generations.
These include Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Sadler’s Wells, Pebbles, Dancing Brace, Nashwan, Sea the Stars, and Golden Horn.
As such, the favorites have done well with five of the last ten market leaders.
Mishriff was the hero of the 2020 Prix du Jockey Club, and he’s really grown up in his last two starts overseas, landing huge pots in Riyadh and Meydan.
On the latter stretch, he beat the very talented Japanese artist Chrono Genesis, who was a massive Group 1 winner over the weekend in Hanshin. For John and Thady Gosden’s runners, it was timely form bragging rights.
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Many will support Addeybb, who has formed a fan club around the world for William Haggas since his win at Lincoln at Doncaster in 2018.
Owned by Sheikh Ahmed al Maktoum, who is known to have landed the Eclipse twice with Mtoto, Addeybb has since been a multiple Group 1 winner with wins in Australia and the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October. Juice in the ground is important to him.
And that’s a big issue. Sandown’s floor may not have that much sag, but it’s worth looking carefully at what fell from the sky overnight. Rain is the order of the day for Eclipse Day.
Anyway, I think St. Mark’s Basilica will take any blows.
A legend that never ran in the Eclipse was the incredible Arazi, who died at the old age of 32.
The chestnut with three white socks and a recognizable crooked blaze delivered a memorable performance in the 1991 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, crowning an unbeaten campaign of seven races with two.
Commentator Tom Durkin shouted, “And Arazi is running right past him!” almost in disbelief when the two-year-old champion was overtaken by main competitor Bertrando in the corner into the home straight on his way to a five-man lap.
On that day, Arazi was as good as you will ever see. And Gerard Mosse, who rode him in France, told me the colt was an absolute machine.
Thanks for the good times, little foal. You were fantastic.
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