Mastercraftman takes the National Stakes at the Curragh from ShaweelPICTURE: Caroline Norris
Craftsman grinds out nail-biting National win
Race report: National Stakes, Curragh, Sunday
THINGS had not been going to plan for Aidan O'Brien with two well-backed favourites going down tamely earlier in the afternoon but when it came to the featured Group 1 National Stakes Mastercraftsman put the record straight - but it wasn't easy.
As previous races had proven, in the testing going coming from off the pace was not an option so the supreme tactician Johnny Murtagh settled the unbeaten Mastercraftsman in second behind the trailblazing Shaweel.
However, as the field approached the final two furlongs Aidan O'Brien's charge looked to be struggling and the 12-1 leader pressed several lengths clear under Greg Fairley.
Jubilant Johnny MurtaghPICTURE: CAROLYN NORRIS
Murtagh was not for beating this time though and, following a desperate battle throughout the final furlong, lifted the 9-4 second favourite a nose in front of Mark Johnston's long-time leader on the line for owner Derrick Smith.
The 9-10 favourite Arazan just didn't have the gears to slice through the tacky ground from his held-up position but stayed on gamely for a deserved third.
O'Brien said: "He has to be very good to do what he has done today.
"It was his first run back after a break and the ground was very deep.
"He has a great attitude and an awful lot of speed. We'll now havea look at Arc day (Prix Jean Luc Lagardere-Grand Criterium)."
Deirdre Johnston, wife of Mark, said of the runner-up: "It was so close, I can't believe we've only been beaten by a short-head but it was still a great effort.
"Greg gave him a really enterprising ride and was very cool.
"He's got lots of entries and we'll have to talk to John Ferguson (owner's representative), but the Dewhurst is a possibility."
Paddy Power cut the winnerto 4-1 from 5s for the 2,000 Guineas and pushed Arazan out to 12-1 from 8s.
But Coral were not impressed by the winner and pushed him out a point to 6-1 while cutting stablemate Rip Van Winkle to 5-1 from 6s.