Bucanero Fuerte edges out Unquestionable in a thriller
Bucanero Fuerte edges out Unquestionable in a thriller

Weekend Racing: Expert panel | Horses to follow and tips for Ascot and Deauville

Andrew Asquith, Adam Houghton and Ben Linfoot make up our expert panel this weekend as the team tackle questions regarding Ascot, Haydock, Newmarket and Deauville.

There’s Group 1 action Saturday in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh, is there a punting angle?

Adam Houghton: I’d probably be leaning towards Bucanero Fuerte if pushed to have a bet, but it wouldn’t be a strong view. There isn’t much between him and Unquestionable on their running in the Railway Stakes over this course and distance last time, but there is a bit of rain forecast to hit the Curragh in the build-up to Saturday’s race and that might swing the balance in this horse’s favour if it turns soft. The ground was heavy when he made a winning debut here back in March and he absolutely sluiced through it.

Of those at the head of the betting, I’d be against Porta Fortuna. I don’t think the two-year-old fillies in Britain and Ireland are a great bunch from what we’ve seen so far this season and she’s in much deeper here against a couple of classy colts. I’d be surprised if she’s good enough to become the first filly to win this race since 2011.

Ben Linfoot: I do like the look of Givemethebeatboys at the early odds. Jessica Harrington’s horse gave River Tiber a lovely tow into the Coventry Stakes before fading into fourth, but I wouldn’t be sure Bucanero Fuerte will uphold that form given he wore him down late on from more towards the stands’ side. With River Tiber missing this for the Prix Morny the horses he beat could well advertise his form and Givemethebeatboys, freshened up nicely since Ascot, looks the value in the race.

Andrew Asquith: It looks an open renewal of the Phoenix with the Railway Stakes one-two Bucanero Fuerte and Unquestionable locking horns again. Add into the mix Albany winner Porta Fortuna and it looks a solid renewal, but I think it will be between the two colts again, and I’d marginally prefer Bucanero Fuerte to come out on top. He sat closer to the pacemaker than Unquestionable on that occasion and, even though he hit 20.0 in-running on Betfair (Unquestionable traded as low as 1.04) he showed a terrific attitude to fight back and edge it on the line. Bucanero Fuerte’s stablemate Launch is likely there to set a true pace for him to aim at and I can see a similar scenario unfolding, especially on ground which is set to be easier than last time.

Listen to our podcast special: Sky Bet Ebor Festival - on tour in Ireland

How keen are you to take on Al Aasy in the Rose Of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock?

AA: Al Aasy confirmed that he retains all of his ability when opening his account for the season in a listed race at Newbury last month, running on in the closing stages to beat the reopposing Phantom Flight. That perhaps wasn’t the deepest race of its type, however, and my stance is to take him on at around 15/8 now back in pattern company, given he has shirked a battle in the past.

The horse that most interests me is King Of Conquest, who arrived at Royal Ascot on a five-timer, and shaped much better than the bare result in the Wolferton Stakes. A wide draw meant he was positioned further back than ideal and he fared best of those who were held up, staying on in the closing stages without ever looking a threat to the principals. His record beforehand was very likeable and, as a horse who usually finds plenty for pressure, he is worth another chance to prove himself still on the up.

BL: I thought he won a weak Listed race last time and given he’s mentally fragile my natural position is to take him on back at Group 3 level. His trainer William Haggas is a genius and he may well have found the key to him, but at 15/8 in slightly better company I’ll take my chances and oppose him with King Of Conquest and Midnight Mile (watch her latest win at York, below) top of the shortlist.

READ: Richard Fahey on Midnight Mile in his latest column

AH: I’d be against Al Aasy simply on price grounds. He’s obviously a major force at this sort of level, but I think this has a bit of depth to it for a Group 3 and a case of sorts can be made for most of his rivals.

El Drama, on his first start for Karl Burke, and Midnight Mile, back on the up when beating some useful fillies in a Listed heat at York last time, are a couple for the shortlist at bigger odds, but the one I’m most keen to be with is King Of Conquest, who looked a progressive and likeable sort when completing a four-timer in a Listed contest at Goodwood in May. I’d fancy him to pick up where he left off there having not been seen to best effect when last seen finishing sixth in the Wolferton at Royal Ascot, doing well to be beaten only four lengths in a race where it proved hard to make up ground from off the pace.

Watch Race Replay

Unlimited race replays of all UK & Irish racing

Access to exclusive features all for FREE - No monthly subscription fee

Log in with your existing Sporting Life, Sky Bet, or Sky Games account. If you don't have any of those, it's completely FREE to register!

There is Group 3 action at Newmarket too in the Sweet Solera Stakes, is there a filly for the future amongst the line up?

BL: If there is it could be Carolina Reaper who is improving all the time with racing. I must admit I thought connections might be tempted by the nursery route from a mark of 88, especially with the seven-furlong nursery at the Ebor Festival coming up, but that fact she’s pitched in at Group 3 level tells you Charlie Johnston must be delighted with her progress. She bolted up at this track last time and looks a filly for the now, as well as the future.

AA: Fallen Angel sets the standard on her runner-up effort in listed company last time, but the horse who I think has the brightest future is Carolina Reaper. She was very green on her debut but built on that promise as expected when beaten only two lengths in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot next time, proving much sharper and leading briefly at the two-furlong pole.

Carolina Reaper took advantage of a drop into maiden company when opening her account over course and distance last time with any amount in hand, forging clear in the closing stages in the style of a filly who has even more to offer. She is back up in class now, but she has a smart pedigree, and the scope to go on improving for a while yet.

AH: The Johnston yard won this race 12 months ago with Lakota Sioux and I’m hoping they can repeat the dose this year with Carolina Reaper, who put up a powerful, front-running display to get off the mark in a maiden over this course and distance three weeks ago.

Beaten only two lengths when finishing sixth in the Chesham at Royal Ascot on her previous start, she confirmed that promise and then some with her performance last time, drawing right away in the final furlong to beat a next-time-out winner by four and a half lengths. This will be another step up the ladder, but she looks a filly with more to offer and will take some pegging back if getting loose end on the front end again at a track where it often pays to be handy.

Download the Sporting Life App

What’s the best bet at the Shergar Cup at Ascot?

AA: One horse that is almost certainly ahead of the handicapper is the William Haggas-trained La Yakel, who was progressive in middle-distance handicaps last season, and shaped with plenty of promise on his return over the course and distance he is set to race over on Saturday.

La Yakel moved into contention that day like the likeliest winner, but was just edged out by the winner in the closing stages, the lack of a recent run seemingly telling. He also wasn’t helped by the winner leaning into him, either, and even though he has been raised 3 lb for that effort, he is a big, strong colt who remains with plenty of potential.

BL: Golden Move in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Classic. Richard Fahey’s son of Golden Horn is progressive and I felt he knuckled down very encouragingly to fight off an in-form horse in Graham at Doncaster, the pair miles clear, last time. The eight-length third from that race was beaten a neck at Ripon the other day, too, so it looks good form. Golden Move is up 5lb, but 1m4f around Ascot with a bit of cut in the ground looks perfect and Fahey has struck lucky with Olivier Peslier, who won this same race for him on Our Gabrial in 2014.

AH: Honestly, keeping tabs on the Shergar Cup card will be towards the bottom end of my priorities on Saturday as I juggle watching the action elsewhere with the increasingly frenetic preparations for my wedding next weekend!

That said, La Yakel was a horse I was looking forward to seeing again at this start of this season and I’m not ready to give up on him just yet, for all that he suffered a costly defeat on his belated return to action over this course and distance last month. Beaten just a neck having gone through that race like the winner, he is likely to be a sharper model with the run under his belt and I’m convinced he’s still well handicapped from a BHA mark of 95.

It will be a brief dip into the Shergar Cup action for me on Saturday, but hopefully La Yakel and Joao 'Magic Man' Moreira can make it worth my while.

Hayley Turner: All-time leading rider at the Shergar Cup
Hayley Turner: All-time leading rider at the Shergar Cup

There’s plenty of British interest in the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville on Sunday with Inspiral, Triple Time, Light Infantry and Hi Royal amongst the raiding party. Can any strike a blow against the home contingent?

BL: I think the Brits might struggle here in all honesty. It looks a very strong crop of French three-year-olds and I’m really looking forward to seeing what Big Rock can do back down in trip to a mile. He threatened to tear apart the French Derby with a bold bid from the front end, only to be run down by Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hopeful Ace Impact, but he’s an exciting son of Rock Of Gibraltar who could well put it up to the older horses in this.

AA: Triple Time sprang a surprise when beating both Inspiral and Light Infantry on his return from eight months off in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot but there was no fluke about that performance. He actually deserves extra credit for being so strong at the finish given he failed to settle in the early stages, continuing to pour it on even when challenged entering the final furlong and he was actually asserting again at the line.

Likely softer conditions are a slight question mark, as he disappointed on similar ground at Longchamp last season, but he is a more mature horse now who is a strong galloper and I would think he’ll uphold that form, especially as Inspiral attempted to give Paddington a race in desperate conditions in the Sussex Stakes only last week. Triple Time has ground to make up with Erevann from last year, though, and the latter wasn’t seen to best effect on his most recent start in the Prix d'Ispahan. It won’t be a race I will be getting financially involved in, but I would hope that Triple Time can build on his Royal Ascot success.

AH: The British and Irish raiders have been having their behinds handed to them on their trips across the Channel this season and I fear they could have more Group 1 disappointment to contend with on Sunday as one of the home team tops my shortlist.

The horse in question is Erevann, who was beaten only narrowly when third in a tight finish to this race last year. It was a similar story last time when he finished hot on the heels of the leaders in the Prix d’Ispahan at Longchamp, passing the post just half a length behind the winner and arguably deserving extra credit having come from further back than the others in the frame.

Still relatively unexposed for a four-year-old, the feeling remains that Erevann hasn’t reached his ceiling just yet and there could be a race like this in him when everything falls right. Sunday might well be his day if he’s fully tuned up after 11 weeks on the sidelines.

More from Sporting Life

Safer gambling

We are committed in our support of safer gambling. Recommended bets are advised to over-18s and we strongly encourage readers to wager only what they can afford to lose.

If you are concerned about your gambling, please call the National Gambling Helpline / GamCare on 0808 8020 133.

Further support and information can be found at begambleaware.org and gamblingtherapy.org.

Like what you've read?

Next Off

Sporting Life
My Stable
Follow and track your favourite Horses, Jockeys and Trainers. Never miss a race with automated alerts.
Access to exclusive features all for FREE - No monthly subscription fee
Click HERE for more information

Most Followed