05/23/2009 12:00AM

Mastercraftsman relishes soft going


Mastercraftsman rediscovered his winning ways just in time to take classic honors in the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh on Saturday.

Reveling in the heavy ground, the Aidan O'Brien-trained Master-craftsman cruised to a 4 1/2-length victory over Rayeni in the Group 1, $615,000 mile, a clear improvement on his fifth-place finish in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket three weeks ago.

The 3-2 winner tracked pacesetter Viceroy of India until taking command 2 1/2 furlongs from the line, from which point it was all academic. Johnny Murtagh was able to ease up through the final sixteenth for a handy score over Rayeni, who lacked room when Mastercraftsman took the lead but was never going to catch the winner anyway. British raider Soul City was third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Rayeni, but 2000 Guineas runner-up Delegator, who drifted to 3-1 over doubts about his ability to handle the ground, finished a dull eighth, 17 1/2 lengths adrift of the winner. The winning time was an understandably slow 1:48.16.

Mastercraftsman had shown an affinity for this type of ground when winning the seven-furlong, Group 1 National Stakes on heavy ground at the Curragh in September. Just fourth on good ground in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp a few weeks later, he ran a similar race in the Newmarket Guineas on good to firm ground when beaten 3 3/4 lengths by Sea the Stars. O'Brien's problem may now be trying to find more soft to heavy going for Mastercraftsman, who will be headed next to the St. James's Palace Stakes, a Group 1 mile for 3-year-old colts at Royal Ascot, where the ground is normally good to firm. O'Brien will be praying for rain on June 16, at least as far as Mastercraftsman is concerned.

* Donativum failed in his first start for Godolphin at Newmarket when he came home fourth in the listed seven-furlong King Charles II Stakes. Running for the first time since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf on Oct. 25, the 13-8 Donativum raced in fourth or fifth throughout under Frankie Dettori and was beaten 3 1/2 lengths by the 2-1 Alyarf, who is trained by Barry Hills for Hamdan al-Maktoum. The winning time on good to firm ground was 1:24.97.