Bucanero Fuerte will bid to cement his position as one of the season’s leading two-year-olds when he lines up in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes.
The son of Wootton Bassett announced himself back in March when a commanding winner of a Curragh maiden and having gone on to be denied by only a length when third to River Tiber in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, he showed plenty of guts and class to come out on top in the Group Two Railway Stakes most recently.
Adrian Murray’s youngster – who is one of two in the race for the trainer alongside the filly Launch – will now attempt to make his mark at Group One level as he continues his climb to the top of the juvenile pecking order.
“On the back of what he did at Ascot we went to the Railway with confidence,” explained Tom Pennington, racing and operations manager for owners Amo Racing.
“He did progress from Ascot and Adrian and the team at home were really chuffed with the way he had progressed. He was showing all the right signs and then he got the job done.
“We’ve been building ever since Ascot and this has been the target since then, with the Railway in between. He hasn’t missed a day and the team have been very happy with him and it’s exciting.”
Although Bucanero Fuerte’s camp are certain there will be more to come when he steps up to seven furlongs and beyond, this six-furlong event appears the obvious spot to test his ability at the highest level.
He has the chance to become the first horse since Siskin in 2019 to do the Railway Stakes/Phoenix Stakes double which will allow connections to begin to dream about replicating the achievements of Ger Lyons’ Irish 2,000 Guineas winner when stepping up to a mile next term.
Pennington added: “All options are open to him and he’s always been a horse who has shown plenty of ability at home. Robson (Aguiar) is an integral part of the team and he has always been high up on his list.
“We’re taking it one race at a time and he’s come through everything with flying colours so far and hopefully everything goes well on Saturday and we can build again from there.
“He won’t be overraced this year, he will definitely improve from two to three and he’s a horse with lots of size and scope and lots of potential, so we’ll be mindful to look after him.
“His brother (Wooded) was a sprinter, but I would say he needs all of six furlongs and he will get seven standing on his head. He should progress to a mile next year. He looks like a miler and he’s still got a frame to fill, so I would be confident he will get a mile next year.”
Bucanero Fuerte just edged out Unquestionable for his Railway Stakes triumph and Aidan O’Brien’s colt is back for another crack at his course-and-distance conqueror.
Unquestionable will be the mount of Ryan Moore, with His Majesty also representing Ballydoyle looking to bridge his near five-length deficit with the front two from when third in the Railway.
He has since placed in the Prix Robert Papin and will be the mount of Seamie Heffernan, while the O’Brien family also hold leading claims in the form of Donnacha O’Brien’s Royal Ascot scorer Porta Fortuna.
Oisin Murphy comes in for the spare ride on the unbeaten daughter of Caravaggio, with O’Brien confident she can hold her own against the colts.
He said: “Everything has gone well since Ascot and this has been the plan for a good while. We left her in the Lowther as a back-up in case we had any hold-ups, but everything has gone perfect.
“We have no ground concerns as she’s won on the two extremes – heavy and good to firm. It looks like it will be beautiful ground on Saturday, just on the easy side of good, so no concerns that way.”
Also making their first appearance since the Royal meeting is Jessica Harrington’s Givemethebeatboys, who created a stir when changing hands for £1.1million on the eve of Ascot’s summer showpiece and was not disgraced when a place behind Bucanero Fuerte finishing fourth in the Coventry.
“I’m delighted with him, all good,” said Harrington.
“There’s no River Tiber, but it’s still a strong race – there’s no such thing as an easy Group One, we all know that.
“Hopefully he’ll run a good race and we don’t get too much rain between now and then so we have a bit of nice ground on the day. He’s won on soft, but I’d prefer better ground as he’s a good-moving horse.
“He’s a good horse, he really is. We’ll do our best and see what happens.”
Although still a a maiden, Gaenari has finished second in three of her four career appearances and completes the line-up for Curragh-based Brazilian trainer Diego Dias.