Trainer Aidan O’Brien willing to give St Mark’s Basilica all the time he needs

St Mark’s Basilica has yet to return to full work following his success in the Irish Champion Stakes.

Wait and see: Aidan O’Brien’s five-time Group 1 winner St Mark’s Basilica is currently recovering from a leg injury. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Wait and see: Aidan O’Brien’s five-time Group 1 winner St Mark’s Basilica is currently recovering from a leg injury. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Victory at Leopardstown was a fifth consecutive Group One for Aidan O’Brien’s Siyouni colt –and in addition to his Eclipse and both French Guineas and Derby exploits, marked him down as the best of his generation.

However, en route to the Irish Champion Stakes, he missed the Juddmonte International at York after his front shoe flew off and hit his hind leg – which then became infected.

Although he came back to beat Tarnawa and Poetic Flare at Leopardstown this month, it appears the initial problem is still causing some issues.

“There’s no decision yet – he’s not back in full work yet,” said O’Brien.

“He did start back with some canters, but he was a little bit sore on that wound that he had.

“Because of that, we’ve just backed off him again and we haven’t made any decisions. That’s where we are at the moment.”

When asked if the tenderness on his leg could have been a reason for St Mark’s Basilica drifting off a true line at Leopardstown, O’Brien said: “It’s possible it was, all those things are possible.”

O’Brien has been forced to juggle plans for Mother Earth after Santa Barbara met with a setback. The 1000 Guineas winner was due to head to Australia to take in the valuable Golden Eagle next month, however, she is now set run in America instead.

Santa Barbara had won two Grade Ones on her last two outings in the States, the Belmont Oaks and the Beverly D Stakes, and would have been a strong fancy for many at the Breeders’ Cup.

Now it seems Mother Earth, who has also won the Prix Rothschild this season and was unlucky in the Matron Stakes last time out, could take her place. Mother Earth is also still a possible for the Sun Chariot at Newmarket before heading off on her travels.

“Unfortunately Santa Barbara has had a setback,” said O’Brien.

“It doesn’t look at the moment as if she’s going to make the Breeders’ Cup.

“We’ve now rerouted Mother Earth. She was going to go to Australia, but we’re thinking she’ll be going to America to take in some of the races that Santa Barbara could have run in.

“It’s a shame for Santa Barbara, she’d been going really well of late.”

It is 10 years since Lightening Pearl provided O’Brien’s fellow Irish trainer Ger Lyons with his first Group One victory in the Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes – and he has a strong chance of repeating it with Sacred Bridge.

The unbeaten filly is owned by the sponsors, and Lyons credits the late Khalid Abdullah with raising the quality in his yard in recent seasons, seeing it as a great compliment that he is now on their roster.

Having won the Irish Guineas for the team with Siskin last year, Lyons is holding on to the dream that Sacred Bridge may be another Classic contender, but first his sights are set on Saturday at Newmarket.

“I suppose they’d be similar, but Sacred Bridge would be more precocious, because I never had Lightening Pearl as a Cheveley Park horse,” he said.

“I had her as a miler – but the more we ran her, the faster she got.

“This filly has always just rocked up. I never went to the races cocky that she’d win. I thought she’d run well in her maiden but improve for the run. But the only time I got a ‘wow’ off her was the last day.

“The Ballyhane (sales race at Naas) was a good, tough performance, but was that a Group One performance? No.

“I kept expecting something to beat her but after the last day, I felt she deserved her place at the top table.”

“I think the secret to her is fast ground, and the way she did it in the Round Tower was visually spectacular. Anything she had done before that, while I’m not knocking it, wasn’t.”

Should Sacred Bridge win, however, Lyons is unlikely to be involved directly in any of the celebrations because he believes he is of more use at home.

“I don’t like going racing because I get more done at home,” he added.

“When you are there you are pulled this way and that, and I actually missed all the photographs (when Lightening Pearl won) afterwards. I just find it a lot of wasted time.

“At home with lots of runners, your mind is kept busy - but over there, your whole day is wasted on one run. It’s nice when they win, though.”