A tumultuous 2020 delivered little in the way of familiarity but not everything changed in the world of racing, as demonstrated by the fact Aidan O’Brien produced an eleventh European Champion two-year-old in the shape of ST MARK’S BASILICA (FR).
The son of Siyouni achieved a rating of 120 when winning the Darley Dewhurst Stakes (G1) at Newmarket in October, setting up the prospect of his emulating his half-brother MAGNA GRECIA (IRE) by winning a QIPCO 2000 Guineas (G1) back at the Rowley Mile this spring.
St Mark’s Basilica becomes the seventh consecutive winner of the Dewhurst Stakes to emerge as the continent’s highest-rated juvenile, further cementing the race as Europe’s leading contest for two-year-olds. The runner-up in the 2020 renewal, the winner’s stablemate WEMBLEY (IRE), took equal second place in the Classifications, alongside the Clive Cox-trained Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes (G1) winner SUPREMACY (IRE), with a rating of 118.
Things were tighter still at the top as far as the fillies were concerned in 2020, with three performers sharing the top spot with a rating of 113.
The O’Brien theme continued through the fillies but remarkably, it was Aidan’s sons Joseph and Donnacha, the latter in his first year with a license, who came out on top.
Joseph was responsible for PRETTY GORGEOUS (FR), who landed the bet365 Fillies’ Mile (G1) at Newmarket in the autumn, while Donnacha trained SHALE (IRE) to win the Moyglare Stud Stakes (G1) at the Curragh earlier in the campaign.
The pair were joined atop the fillies standings by the Wesley Ward-trained Darley Prix Morny (G1) winner CAMPANELLE (IRE), who had earlier won the Queen Mary Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot.
IHRB Handicapper Mark Bird said: “St Mark’s Basilica is the latest in a long line of European two-year-old Champions, dating back to Fasliyev in 1999, to emerge from the Aidan O’Brien academy. 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.”
The leading British-trained two-year-old was Supremacy (IRE) with his rating of 118 and BHA 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.”
In France, SEALIWAY (FR) (116) emerges as the highest-rated French-trained colt, following his demolition of the field in the Qatar Prix Jean Luc Lagardere (G1), while TIGER TANAKA (IRE) (110), winner of the Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac (G1), is the joint-highest rated French-trained filly along with PLAINCHANT (FR) (110), who took the Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte (G2).
IHRB Handicapper Mark 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.”
The full breakdown of classifications can be found here.