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Mastercraftsman 16 June 2009 - Royal AscotMastercraftsman and Delagator vie for the lead at Royal Ascot

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker  

Mastercraftsman denies Delegator in epic duel

Report: Royal Ascot, Tuesday

St James's Palace Stakes (Group 1) 1m

THEY shall notpass. Mastercraftsman, the 5-6 favourite for the St James's Palace Stakes, held off a sustained challenge from Delegator (4-1) to land the Group 1 by a head and prompt comparisons with iron horse Giant's Causeway.

The Irish 2,000 Guineas winner, trained by Aidan O'Brien and ridden by Johnny Murtagh, was briefly headed by the Brian Meehan-trained runner-up in the final furlong but put in a gritty effort to regain pole position. Lord Shanakill (20-1) finished one and a half lengths away in third under Jim Crowley.

Ballydoyle's three runners bossed proceedings from the off. Murtagh kept his charge close to the fierce pace set by Set Sail and was shielded by Born To Be King, who raced in second spot in the early stages.

With three furlongs to run, Murtagh shrugged off his stablemates and burst a length clear of the field turning into the straight. But the leader was soon being stalked by Delegator under Jimmy Fortune and Lord Shanakill at the two pole.

Delegator, who had previously got the better of Mastercraftsman in the 2,000 Guineas, looked to be all over the favourite and grabbed the lead briefly. But Murtagh's charge pulled out more in a thrilling finish.

Aidan O'brien - trainer

Trainer Aidan O'Brien: six winners

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker  

O'Brien, who was enjoying his sixth success in the Group 1 feature, said: "It was unbelievable, a great performance. He's an amazing horse with speed, stamina, and all ground comes alike to him.

"It was a great performance from the horse and a marvellous performance from Johnny.

"If he steps up to a mile and a quarter I don't think he'll have a problem with that."

Murtagh said: "I committed him early enough, he's a bit lazy when he hits the front.

"When Delegator came to him you could see my horse had his head was down and he was really trying.

"He gave 110%, he's brave, courageous, he's like all the great horses I ride for Ballydoyle - they never know when they're beaten.

"He's won a Guineas and a St James's Palace over a mile, he's not short of speed. I think he's a true champion and he deserves a lot of credit."

Brian Meehan said: "I was very pleased with his performance and 50 yards out it looked like he had his head in front.

"It was a hell of a run and it pours ice on all the people who knocked him in Ireland.

Mastercraftsman's success extends this season's brilliant run of his sire, the Coolmore-based Danehill Dancer, who currently sits in second position behind Cape Cross on the leading sire's list.

Bred by Lynch BagesLtd, the colt is out of the winning Black Tie Affair mare Starlight Dreams. Her earlier foals include the Grade 3 winner Genuine Devotion (by Rock Of Gibraltar).






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