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O'Brien set to unleash classy Excelebration in Gladness

Excelebration, one of the most exciting prospects among the older generation of horses at Ballydoyle, could make its debut for Aidan O'Brien at The Curragh on Sunday.

Purchased by Coolmore after winning the Hungerford Stakes last August, the Exceed And Excel four-year-old had previously landed the German 2,000 Guineas for up-and-coming Newmarket handler Marco Botti.

Indeed, his only three defeats in six starts during his Classic campaign came when he contested races that were won by the mighty Frankel.

Second to Henry Cecil's superstar on his seasonal bow at Newbury, Excelebration was third behind him in the St James' Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. He went on to land a deserved Group One of his own when scorching to victory in the Moulin at Longchamp under Jamie Spencer, before again finding only Frankel too strong in the QE II back at Ascot in October.

In the meantime, he has switched to O'Brien's care, and may now take in Sunday's seven-furlong Big Bad Bob Gladness Stakes ahead of a possible return to top-level company for the Lockinge at Newbury or the Tattersalls Gold Cup back at headquarters later in the month.

The Dandy Nicholls-trained Beacon Lodge, second in the Hungerford, is one of eight others engaged in Sunday's Group Three.

O'Brien has also entered 2,000 Guineas prospects Nephrite -- conqueror of Sea The Stars' highly regarded three-parts brother Born To Sea at Leopardstown in October -- and Crusade in the Loughbrown Listed Stakes. A shock winner of the Middle Park at Newmarket, Crusade was last seen finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.

Irish Independent