Champions Weekend Guide: British-Irish clash headlines National Stakes

Battleground takes on the unbeaten Master of the Seas

Friday, September 11, 2020

Battleground is favourite for the Guineas - but can he win the National Stakes first?

The penultimate Group 1 offering of Longines Irish Champions Weekend sees the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes take centre stage, writes Bradley West.  

Formerly part of the Breeders Cup Challenge series, the seven-furlong race has a history which stretches all the way back to 1849 when Chatterbox won the inaugural contest.  

Contested by two-year-old colts and fillies the race is normally a good guide for the following season’s 2000 Guineas with the likes of Churchill, Gleneagles, Dawn Approach and George Washington all going from success at the Curragh on to triumph at Newmarket.  

Here’s all you need to know about the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes, named after the legendary Irish trainer who took victory in this race on a remarkable 15 occasions.  


When: 4.10pm, Sunday 13 September  

Distance: 7f  

Purse: €250,000  

Age: 2yo  

Trainer with most wins: Vincent O’Brien - 15  

Jockey with most wins: Lester Piggott and Michael Kinane – both 4   


Aidan O’Brien famously claimed a hat-trick of successes in this race from 2014 to 2016 and he has won it 11 times in total, but his recent attempts haven’t been so kind.  

That could all change this time though thanks to Battleground who has won on two of his three starts in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Vintage at Goodwood.  

The Ballydoyle horse has caused a lot of excitement in his early showings and is naturally an early favourite for next year’s 2000 Guineas.  

An intriguing battle awaits however, with unbeaten raider Master of the Seas.  

Charlie Appleby’s colt has won in its only two races in style at Newmarket and looks good to provide the British trainer with a third consecutive National Stakes victory.  

Don’t discount Jessica Harrington’s Phoenix Stakes victor Lucky Vega in what is a stacked line-up.  



Aidan O’Brien has won this race 11 times but in 2011 almost lost it.  

Power, ridden by Seamie Heffernan, was second favourite but had the rest of the field beaten for much of the seven furlongs.  

That was, until, Dragon Pulse found a sudden burst of speed to threaten the result only for Power to hold on by a small margin at the death.  


When you’re a horse named Churchill, it helps if you can display a strong character and bounce back from adversity.  

After losing on his debut, that’s exactly what O’Brien’s star did as he won the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Tyros Stakes at Leopardstown and the Futurity Stakes before arriving at the Curragh as favourite for the National Stakes.  

And he duly did not disappoint as Ryan Moore piloted him to a brilliant win, secured in the final two furlongs.  


Appleby’s red-hot Pinatubo went on a run of six straight victories in 2019 and showed just how with a masterful showing in the National Stakes last year.  

Sent off as the favourite, the Godolphin-owned Shamardal colt cruised to the lead early on but it was what came next that was even more impressive.  

Piloted by William Buick, Pinatubo simply entered hyperspace as he rocketed clear by a mammoth nine lengths ahead of next best Armory.  


Aidan O’Brien on Battleground: “Battleground is a big, powerful horse who has done well physically since Goodwood. He is versatile and has handled good ground and slowish ground. It was always the plan to go to the National Stakes after Goodwood.”  

Charlie Appleby on Master of the Seas: “He’s done well for his break. The National Stakes has always been his target. William [Buick] can ride at Leopardstown on Saturday, we'll put him in isolation for the 24 hours and he'll be able to ride at the Curragh on Sunday.”

Battleground is a big, powerful horse who has done well physically since Goodwood. He is versatile and has handled good ground and slowish ground. It was always the plan to go to the National Stakes after Goodwood.

- Aidan O'Brien 

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