In 2008 the gutsy grey colt Mastercraftsman became one of Aidan O’Brien’s high profile juveniles when successful in four of his five outings, including Group 1 victories in the Phoenix Stakes and the National Stakes at the Curragh.
Sired by Danehill Dancer (who took the same Group 1’s as a two-year-old), Mastercraftsman proved to be just as exceptional on testing ground as on a sounder surface. His only defeat at two was on his final outing in France when stepped back to six furlongs for the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere; a trip plenty sharp enough at that stage of his development.
His first race as a three-year-old was the English 2000 Guineas when ridden by Pat Smullen. He seemed to get outpaced around the furlong post before staying on again on the climb to the line. The race was won by Sea The Stars and a fifth place finish for Mastercraftsman appeared a disappointing result at the time. The winner of course proved to be a superstar whilst O’Brien’s colt clearly improved from that first outing.
At the Curragh on heavy ground he thrashed the opposition to win the Irish Guineas before a trip to Ascot to contest the St James’s Palace Stakes. On quicker ground he found the Newmarket Guineas runner-up Delegator a tough nut to crack. However, stamina appeared to win through when he rallied for pressure to get home by a neck.
A step up to ten furlongs made perfect sense, when he arrived at York in August to contest the Juddmonte International Stakes. It meant a clash with Sea The Stars, who had won the Derby and the Eclipse since the 2,000 Guineas victory in May. In a four runner renewal, Aidan O’Brien saddled three in an attempt to get the better of John Oxx’s star.
Two pacemakers set about drawing the finishing kick out of Sea The Stars, and when the two main protagonists moved to the front just inside the three furlong marker, the Ballydoyle plan looked to be working. Johnny Murtagh threw everything at Mastercraftsman and had the favourite under pressure. But Mick Kinane galvanised the great horse to finally overhaul O’Brien’s gallant star. Run in a record time, the race proved exceptional, and though defeated Mastercraftsman had undoubtedly run a career best.
A third place finish followed in the Irish Champion Stakes before he warmed up for a trip to the Breeders’ Cup by winning a Group 3 at Dundalk. Sent off favourite in the Dirt Mile at Santa Anita, he could only manage fourth place behind the Kentucky Cup Classic winner Furthest Land. To be fair to him, it was the end of a brutal campaign that had gleaned a pair of Group 1 victories from the six contested.
Mastercaftsman was retired to stand at Coolmore Stud and has produced several offspring of the highest calibre. Of his first crop of foals Kingston Hill inherited his father’s blend of class and raw guts, enabling him to win the Racing Post Trophy at two before Epsom Derby and St Leger victories at three. He also ran an absolute stunner in the Arc, when finishing fourth to Treve at odds of 25/1.
The Grey Gatsby is certainly a chip off the old block. Best at ten furlongs, Kevin Ryan’s colt is as tough as teak. He took the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club last summer, before finishing second to Australia in the Juddmonte International and then reversing the form in a thriller at Leopardstown in the Irish Champion Stakes. Behind Solow at Meydan and then very unfortunate to lose to Free Eagle at Royal Ascot, the best of The Grey Gatsby may still lie ahead.
Another of Mastercraftsman’s progeny struck gold at Royal Ascot, when the grey filly Amazing Maria caused something of an upset to win the Duke of Cambridge Stakes. This was a huge step forward on her three-year-old form, though she’d shown great promise at two. It’s likely that she’s taken time to strengthen into her substantial frame, and if that is the case, this could be an exciting season.
It would come as no surprise to see Mastercraftsman’s offspring excel in the National Hunt sphere. Many appear to possess the scope and guts required to perform well over obstacles, and an ability to adapt to all surfaces is of course a huge bonus on a cold and wet winter’s day at Fairyhouse or Punchestown.
The coming years could prove very interesting indeed for this classy stallion.