St. Mark’s Basilica Earns BC Turf Berth With Irish Champion Stakes Win

Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier, and Michael Tabor’s St Mark’s Basilica (FR) was an impressive winner of a thrilling Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes, and earned an automatic berth into the $4 million Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is an international series of 84 stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held at Del Mar racetrack in Del Mar, California on Nov. 5-6.

The Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes was one of three Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races to take place at Leopardstown Racecourse in Dublin, Ireland today, alongside the Group 1 Coolmore America ‘Justify’ Matron Stakes and Group 2 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes (G2).

The Aidan O’Brien-trained St Mark’s Basilica (FR) showed his brilliance when defeating 2020 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf champion Tarnawa (IRE) and dual Group 1 winner Poetic Flare (IRE).

Winner of the Group 1 French 2000 Guineas, the Group 1 French Derby, and Group 1 Coral-Eclipse earlier this summer, the 3-year-old extended his unbeaten record this season and captured his fifth Group 1 success.

Patrick Sarsfield (FR), the outsider of the four-runner field, made the running until inside the final quarter-mile when the three Group 1 winners then struck for home. A tactical contest, St Mark’s Basilica (FR) drifted right in the closing stages, taking Tarnawa (IRE) with him across the track, but the Ballydoyle stable star secured his victory by three-quarters of a length in the hands of Ryan Moore. On his first start over 10 furlongs, Poetic Flare (IRE) finished a nose behind Tarnawa (IRE) in third. A stewards’ inquiry was called following the race but the results remained unchanged.

“It was great because it was tactical,” said winning trainer Aidan O’Brien. “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.”

No decision has been taken over where St Mark’s Basilica (IRE) will race next.

A son of Siyouni (FR) out of the Galileo (IRE) mare Cabaret (IRE), St Mark’s Basilica (IRE) completed the 1 ¼ miles in 2:11.19 on a course rated as good.

No Speak Alexander Conquers in Coolmore America ‘Justify’ Matron Stakes

Charles O’Callaghan, Noel O’Callaghan, and Paul O’Callaghan’s No Speak Alexander (IRE) was back to her best in a dramatic renewal of the G1 Coolmore America ‘Justify’ Matron Stakes. The victory securing the filly an automatic entry into the $2 million Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Trained by Jessica Harrington and ridden by Shane Foley, No Speak Alexander (IRE) crossed a neck in front of Pearls Galore (IRE) in a tight finish and survived a stewards’ inquiry to secure the 1-mile contest. Mother Earth (IRE), winner of the Group 1 QIPCO 1000 Guineas and Group 1 Prix Rothschild, suffered a luckless run to finish third under jockey Ryan Moore.

A 3-year-old daughter by Shalaa (IRE) out of the Dandy Man (IRE) mare Rapacity Alexander (IRE), No Speak Alexander (IRE) completed the contest in 1:41.98.

Winning trainer Harrington said: “That was absolutely fantastic. After she was third in the Irish [1000] Guineas [G1], we wanted to go the Group 1 route. We thought we’d go to Ascot, that didn’t happen, and then we thought we’d go for the Falmouth, and that didn’t happen either. We took her to France [10th in Prix Rothschild-G1] and she got very badly interfered with a furlong down, so it was a no race. We’ve ended up coming here and thank goodness we’ve got the result.”

Atomic Jones wins the KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes

The Ger Lyons-trained Atomic Jones (FR) powered home from the back of the field to win the G2 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes by a head in good style. The winner earning an automatic berth into this year’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).

Settled near the rear of the 10-runner field under jockey Colin Keane, Atomic Jones struck for the line late to secure the victory by a head, with joint favorite Stone Age (IRE) finishing in second, and Absolute Ruler (USA) in third.

Atomic Jones, a son of Wootton Bassett (GB), completed the 1-mile contest in 1:42.75.

As part of the benefits of the Challenge Series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for all three winners to start at Del Mar. Breeders’ Cup will also provide a travel allowance of $40,000 for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.

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