Bucanero Fuerte books Royal Ascot place with successful return to action at Naas

Fairy Godmother delivers Ascot promise as Ryan Moore and Aidan O’Brien combine to win first three races

An official attendance of just over 2,000 availed of free entry to celebrate a centenary of racing at Naas on Sunday and got a grandstand view of Bucanero Fuerte’s successful warm-up for Royal Ascot next month.

Last year’s Phoenix Stakes hero has been the headline act in the Co Westmeath training operation headed by Adrian Murray that has elbowed its way to the forefront of flat racing in recent seasons.

Bucanero Fuerte’s main owner, Kia Joorabchian, made headlines of his own earlier this week by removing his horses, including the top-class King Of Steel, from Newmarket trainer Roger Varian.

If it isn’t the first time the British football agent has chopped and changed, Murray and his Brazilian assistant Robson Aguiar have remained fixtures in his AMO Racing team.


The dividend has included success at Royal Ascot and Bucanero Fuerte securing a Group One victory which meant conceding a 3lb penalty to race-fit rivals in the Group Three Goffs Lacken Stakes.

David Egan, who replaced Kevin Stott as AMO’s No 1 rider during the summer, teamed up with Bucanero Fuerte for the first time and despite contending with early pressure from Alabama succeeded in getting the colt to the stands rail.

Givemethebeatboys, who started 5-4 favourite to beat his rival, closed to within a head at the line but couldn’t get by.

It looked an ideal warm-up for a tilt at the Commonwealth Cup on a card billed as Ascot Trials Day that last year supplied two subsequent winners at the world-famous meeting.

“Hard work,” was how Murray described the performance, although Auigar echoed him in predicting significant improvement at Ascot and said: “He’s going to improve a lot because we were not hard on him, and he will get fit from the race. He will go over six furlongs at Ascot. He has great speed, and he stays well so that is the plan for him now.”

On a glorious afternoon promising a preview of the upcoming summer there was more evidence of Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle team cranking into top gear.

A week after Wayne Lordan partnered a 30-1 four-timer for O’Brien at Leopardstown, Ryan Moore was on duty and quickly rattled off the first three winners.

Fairy Godmother will try to be the third filly in a row to land the Coolmore Sprint and proceed to Albany Stakes success at Ascot.

She reversed previous Naas form with Sparkling Sea with a late lunge delivering a neck verdict that did little to dilute the impression of two very promising fillies.

“We thought she would win the first day, but she was very green and obviously with a first time out two-year-old anything can happen. The filly that beat her is obviously a very good filly,” O’Brien said.

“Even though they went slow today the plan was to drop her in and teach her and we needed to find out what way to ride her in Ascot. Ryan said she’s very classy, gets six very well and as we saw and will get seven.”

Either the Windsor Castle or the Norfolk Stakes looks next for Treasure Isle who overcame inexperience to beat Saratoga Special in the opener.

Five furlongs is also on the agenda for Aesop’s Fables, who will take his chance in the King Charles III Stakes, formerly the King’s Stand, after landing the Sole Power Sprint.

Having suffered a blank at both the English and French Guineas in the previous fortnight, such form was a timely boost for the Ballydoyle behemoth ahead of next weekend’s opening Irish Classics of 2024 at the Curragh.

O’Brien indicated River Tiber, who won on Naas card last year before landing the Coventry at Ascot will head his hopes for a 13th Irish 2,000 success.

Last year’s Breeders’ Cup winner Unquestionable could join him and there a chance he could be joined too by Mountain Bear. Opera Singer may have both Buttons and Everlasting for company in the 1,000 Guineas while Auguste Rodin is on course for the Tattersalls Gold Cup.

Sunday’s other Listed contest, the Owenstown Stakes, also saw a topweight emerge on top as Mutasarref overcame trouble in running to overhaul Special Wan in the closing stages.

Ascot’s Britannia Handicap is on Chicago Critic’s radar after Ben Coen delivered a sweeping challenge up the outside to land the mile handicap.

“I always thought he might be a soft-ground horse, but we worked him on the grass last week and Ben was very impressed with him. He’s been gelded since his last run as well so maybe a bit of both,” winning trainer Johnny Murtagh said.

Shane Foley picked himself up from a fall in the pervious race to win the finale on Serialise.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column