St Mark’s Basilica has been crowned champion two-year-old in Europe for 2020, in what the handicappers admitted was not a “vintage year” for juveniles.
The Covid-19 lockdown saw the British and Irish Flat seasons delayed by two months until June, with Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board handicapper Mark Bird feeling the late start combined with “slightly muddled” form lines had seen last year’s juvenile crop rank lower than previous generations.
Nevertheless, St Mark’s Basilica achieved a rating of 120 in winning the Dewhurst at Newmarket in October, making him Aidan O’Brien’s 11th champion two-year-old and the seventh consecutive winner of that race to take the European crown. His rating is 8lb lower than that achieved by Pinatubo in 2019.
Stablemate Wembley, who was runner-up at Headquarters, is equal second in the classifications alongside Clive Cox’s Middle Park winner Supremacy, with a rating of 118. O’Brien’s unbeaten Derby favourite High Definition was given a figure of 115.
Bird said of St Mark’s Basilica: “We rated his effort in landing the Darley Dewhurst Stakes as marginally the best form shown by a European two-year-old in 2020 and just ahead of that shown by the 12 other Group 1-winning two-year-olds in Europe this year.
“At this stage of his career, he rates higher than his half-brother Magna Grecia who won the Qipco 2000 Guineas as a three-year-old and he appears to hold every chance of emulating his sibling in winning that event in 2021, with normal progression as a three-year-old.”
Supremacy is the leading British-trained two-year-old ahead of Charlie Appleby’s Autumn Stakes winner One Ruler on 114 and the Marcus Tregoning-trained Alkumait, the Mill Reef victor, on 113.
British Horseracing Authority Handicapper Graeme Smith said: “Supremacy became the latest in a long line of Group 1-winning sprinters to emerge from Clive Cox’s stable over the last decade and achieved a rating of 118 when defeating the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes winner Lucky Vega in a deep-looking Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes.
“Very well bought for £65,000, he was the standout British-trained juvenile from Goodwood onwards and went into winter quarters as the highest-rated two-year-old his prolific trainer has ever handled.”
The O’Brien family also provided two of the three top-rated fillies, with Joseph’s Fillies’ Mile winner Pretty Gorgeous ranking on 113 along with his brother Donnacha’s Shale, who was victorious in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.
Wesley Ward’s Campanelle, winner of the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot and the Prix Morny, was also awarded a mark of 113.
Sealiway emerged as the highest-rated French-trained colt on 116, following his impressive Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere victory, while Marcel Boussac winner Tiger Tanaka is the joint-highest rated French-trained filly along with Plainchant, who took the Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte, on 110.
Bird added: “In summary, 2020 could not be said to have been a vintage year for two-year-olds.
“While numerically, the 44 horses that made the classifications are in line with recent averages, the truncated nature of the season and the slightly muddled nature of some of the form lines mean that the champion juveniles of the year rank at the lower end of the historical scale.”