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Arazan on target for National Stakes test

ARAZAN, the hugely impressive winner of the Futurity Stakes at the Curragh last month, may face a battalion of Ballydoyle rivals when he attempts to retain his unbeaten record in the Bank of Scotland National Stakes at the same track on Sunday.

Of the 20 acceptors for the 7f event, 13 are trained by Aidan O'Brien, who has won the race six times and who confirmed on Tuesday he will mount a multiple challenge for the Group 1 prize.

O'Brien said: "We won't be finalising plans until nearer the weekend but we'll probably have a good few runners."

According to O'Brien, Mastercraftsman, unbeaten in three starts and winner of the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes last month, is likely to attempt 7f for the first time on Sunday.

He said: "We're looking at running Mastercraftsman and Masterofthehorse, who won his maiden well at Gowran Park, and we'll run a few others as well. Rip Van Winkle's in the race but probably won't run on testing ground."

The ground was described as soft on Tuesday by Curragh manager Paul Hensey, who said: "We got only 2.5mm of rain overnight, which is a lot less than fell in other parts of the country.

"There's more rain on the way and we're not out of the woods yet, but we have no problems at this stage."

The prospect of testing ground is not a concern for John Oxx, trainer of Arazan, who handled heavy ground well when landing the Group 2 Futurity over course and distance.

Oxx said on Tuesday: "The plan is for Arazan to run. Everything's gone smoothly since his last race. We knew he liked ease but we weren't sure how he'd cope with heavy ground in the Futurity. But the conditions didn't seem to hinder him, so we can't be worried on that score for Sunday."                                                                     
Arazan will be Oxx's only runner, as Sea The Stars,a half-brother to Galileo who won a maiden at Leopardstown last month, is being kept for the Group 2 Beresford Stakes at the Curragh on September 28.

Oxx said: "We didn't want to step Sea The Stars up inclass on heavy ground. Hopefully, conditions will have improved by the end of the month, although that's by no means certain with the weather we're having."

Oxx has won the National Stakes twice, more recently with Sinndar in 1999, while Jim Bolger, who won the last two runnings with Teofilo and New Approach, will be represented by Naas maiden winner Gan Amhras.

Dermot Weld, who has sent out five National Stakes winners, has left in Galway maiden winner Broad Meaning and recent Dundalk scorer Dark Humour, while Mark Johnston's Gimcrack winner Shaweel is the only British-trained acceptor.

O'Brien has not ruled out the possibility of Yeats joining Septimus in the Irish Field St Leger line-up on Saturday, when the trainer will be bidding for an Irish Classic clean sweep, for which he is 2-5 with William Hill.

He said: "We haven't finalised plans but it's possible Yeats and Septimus, plus one other, might run in the Irish St Leger."

He added: "We'll have a lot of runners this weekend between Doncaster and the Curragh.

"Johnny was down to ride work this morning and he's coming down again tomorrow. We'll have a better idea then whether he will be riding at the Curragh or Doncaster on Saturday."

National Stakes
: 4-9 A O'Brien, 2 Arazan, 10 Gan Amhras, 12 Shaweel, 20 Intense Focus, 33 Broad Meaning, 50 Dark Humour, 100 Kamado.


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