Bucanero Fuerte is set to renew rivalry with his Royal Ascot conqueror River Tiber in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh on Saturday.
Aidan O’Brien claimed the Group One contest for a remarkable 17th time with Little Big Bear 12 months ago and is responsible for six of the 12 juveniles still in contention for this year’s renewal.
The Ballydoyle handler’s chief hope is River Tiber, who stretched his unbeaten record to three in the Coventry Stakes at the Royal meeting in June and is second only to stablemate City Of Troy in the ante-post betting for next year’s 2000 Guineas.
Alabama, His Majesty, Johannes Brahms, The Caribbean and Unquestionable complete the O’Brien sextet.
Just a length behind River Tiber when third in the Coventry was the Adrian Murray-trained Bucanero Fuerte, who subsequently proved that performance was no fluke by edging out Unquestionable in the Group Two Railway Stakes over the Phoenix course and distance.
Murray has also left his 150-1 Norfolk Stakes winner Valiant Force and Launch in the Group One contest at the six-day stage, but looks set to rely upon his Railway winner.
He said: “Bucanero Fuerte is the one that’s probably going to go.
“All has gone well since the Railway. We took him and Valiant Force to work at the Curragh last week and we were very happy with the two of them. Hopefully it’s onwards and upwards.
“You don’t know until you run, but looks like he (Bucanero Fuerte) is improving all the time.”
Assuming Bucanero Fuerte does line up at the Curragh, his stablemate Valiant Force could head to France in search of a Group One win of his own.
“He’s going to Deauville in two weeks’ time for the Prix Morny. We’re looking forward to it – the pressure is on,” Murray added.
The potential Phoenix field is completed by Donnacha O’Brien’s Porta Fortuna, winner of the Albany Stakes at the Royal meeting, Jessica Harrington’s Coventry fourth Givemethebeatboys and the Diego Dias-trained Gaenari.