O’Brien assembles strong team for National Stakes

The pecking order among Aidan O’Brien’s juveniles could become more evident after the Bank Of Scotland National Stakes on Sunday at the Curragh.

The Ballydoyle team have confirmed Mastercraftsman, Masterofthehorse and Rip Van Winkle, all of whom are prominent in the betting for next year’s Classics.

Mastercraftsman is unbeaten in three starts and has already won at the highest level in the Phoenix Stakes where he comfortably accounted for Art Connoisseur.

Masterofthehorse is a full-brother to Alexandrova while Rip Van Winkle beat Cuis Ghaire in the Tyros Stakes.

O’Brien has also left in 10 others including Westphalia and Hail Caesar.

A total of 20 horses have been left in the race with John Oxx’s unbeaten Arazan and the Jim Bolger-trained Gan Amhras, who beat Masterofthehorse at Naas in July, standing their ground.

Dermot Weld also has two entered in Broad Meaning and Dark Humour while the sole British-trained possible is Mark Johnston’s Gimcrack winner Shaweel.

Oxx is hopeful Arazan can continue on his upward curve in the Group One contest.

The juvenile was an impressive winner on fast ground at Leopardstown on his debut and handled much more testing conditions when running away with the Futurity Stakes last time.

“Arazan has been fine since his last run and he has continued in his normal routine with no hitches, so all is well,” said Oxx.

“Heavy ground didn’t stop him the last day and he will need to go on that again because it is going to be very soft again at the weekend.

“It’s hard to know what will turn up in the race but as you would expect, it will be a hot race.”

Oxx had also been considering the seven-furlong heat for another smart juvenile in Sea The Stars, but he has decided to bide his time with the son of Cape Cross.

“We have decided not to up Sea The Stars in class with the way the ground is,” Oxx continued.

“He wants good ground so we will have to see what happens with the weather.

“He is in the Beresford Stakes back at the Curragh in a couple of weeks but the weather needs to improve a fair bit before then.”

The ground could also scupper the chances of Gan Amhras lining up, although Bolger is hoping to be represented in the race.

“Gan Amhras is a nice horse but the ground will not be right for him so he is unlikely to run,” said Bolger, who has won the last two runnings with New Approach and Teofilo.

“Intense Focus is likely to be my only runner in the race.”

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