Bucanero 'The Best I've Ridden' – Aguiar Sweet On Phoenix Stakes Favourite

Aguiar (right, alongside Kia Joorabchian): “If everything goes right in the race, I think he should win.” | Tattersalls

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Widely considered one of the shrewdest judges of equine talent on an international scale, Robson Aguiar has described Bucanero Fuerte (GB) (Wootton Bassett {GB) as the best horse he has ever ridden and predicted the colt would be very hard to beat in Saturday's G1 Phoenix S. at the Curragh.

It was Aguiar who first spotted the potential in the Adrian Murray-trained Bucanero Fuerte as a yearling last year and went to €165,000 to secure the colt from Etreham at the August Sale at Arqana. 

Victory in the first juvenile Group 1 race of the year in Europe would guarantee Bucanero Fuerte's share price to sky-rocket well beyond that initial outlay, which would represent a huge result for the Brazilian native given his wife Giselle owns the colt in partnership with Amo Racing. 

“Bucanero is in top form,” the 41-year-old said on Thursday. “I'd say he has improved a good bit since his last run. I have ridden a lot of good horses in the past but this horse is really special. He is the best horse I have ridden. I rode very good horses when I worked in Ballydoyle and for Tally-Ho Stud as well. 

“I rode Camelot (GB), Excelebration (Ire), Perfect Power (Ire), Go Bears Go (Ire), Ardad (Ire), Persian Force (Ire)–a lot of good horses–but this horse is really special. He's a very quiet horse, has a good mind, is a brilliant mover–he has everything.”

Bucanero Fuerte beats Unquestionable in the Railway Stakes | Racingfotos.com

Bucanero Fuerte has already accounted for his main market rival on Saturday, Unquestionable (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}), when the pair met in the G2 Railway S. at the Curragh last month. He is well on his way to fulfilling his stallion potential, being a classy brother to the Prix de l'Abbaye scorer Wooded (Ire), and Aguiar explained that the blooding of such types has become an important aspect of the Amo Racing model.  

He said, “We work very hard for this. We are working hard to make a stallion and have four good stallion prospects this year. There is New York Thunder (Nyquist), one of the best three-year-olds in America, King Of Steel (Wootton Bassett {GB}), Valiant Force and Bucanero Fuerte. Also, we still have Go Bears Go (Ire) (Kodi Bear {Ire}), who will retire at the end of this year. Hopefully he can win a Group 1 or Group 2 beforehand. 

“For the past few years, we have been working hard to try and find these horses. It's not easy to make a stallion and, until we get there, we won't be happy. We are on the right track but we are not there yet. Hopefully Bucanero can win on Saturday.”

The brother to Wooded, whose first yearlings will go under the hammer at the August Sale at Arqana next week, was a well-credentialed stallion prospect at the yearling sales. However, it wasn't Bucanero Fuerte's page that lured Aguiar in.

“He caught my eye straight away when I saw him at the sales. When they pulled him out of the stable, I said to my wife, 'I am going to buy this horse.' I didn't even look at his pedigree because, when I go to the sales, I watch all of the horses. I look at them walking and, if they interest me, I look at the pedigree. If I am not interested, I don't bother looking.”

Aguiar added, “I didn't know he was a brother to Wooded when I saw him first. He could have been related to nothing and I would have bought him still. But when I did see his pedigree, I thought I had no chance of buying him. I was lucky to be able to buy him.”

Buying the good models over a page is what Aguiar built his business on. When operating on a budget, he was able to turn cheaper yearling purchases into six-figure breezers. 

The bankroll behind the operation may be on a completely different scale now, helped by the backing of Amo boss Kia Joorabchian, but the principals and the work ethic remains the same.

“Look, I still buy colts without much of a pedigree for myself and I breeze them. I like to buy a racey-looking horse to breeze. But for Amo, I try to buy stallion prospects with a pedigree because Kia does not want to win a race. He wants Group winners and stallion prospects.”

Royal Ascot-winning juvenile Valiant Force, who is also trained in County Westmeath by Murray and being aimed at the G1 Prix Morny, is another stallion prospect that was found for Amo by Aguiar. 

Alongside Tally-Ho Stud's Roger O'Callaghan, Aguiar snapped up the son of Malibu Moon for $100,000 on the recommendation of bloodstock agent Ben McElroy at the September Yearling Sale at Keeneland. 

Like Bucanero Fuerte, Aguiar's wife Giselle retains a share of Valiant Force, as does O'Callaghan's wife Rachael, in partnership with Amo Racing. 

Valiant Force caused one of the biggest shocks in recent memory at Royal Ascot when winning the G2 Norfolk S. at odds of 150-1 and Aguiar is now charting a path back to America along with Murray for the Breeders' Cup with the colt. 

Recalling how he came to acquire Valiant Force, he said, “Ben McElroy told me to have a look at him. He bought him as a foal as part of a syndicate and they put him in Book 2 of the September Yearling Sale at Keeneland where he got a little bit lost. He is by Malibu Moon, who is not the most fashionable stallion but, when Ben showed me the horse, I really liked him. I got Roger to have a look and we bought him to breeze. We decided to race him and sold a little bit of him to Kia before Ascot.

“He's in good form and I'd say he has improved since Ascot as well. He's gotten bigger and stronger. For me, he will be a proper dirt horse but I'm going to run him once more on turf in the Prix Morny in France. My plan is to go to the Breeders' Cup for the dirt race because he works very good on it.”

Joorabchian has earned himself a reputation as being a hard-nosed businessman who is not afraid to move his horses around. It is a results-based business at the end of the day and nobody is more aware of this than Aguiar, who has a very clear vision about what success looks like for the Amo Racing chief.

 Aguiar: “I want to be the best – I don't want to be just another person in the game.” | Tattersalls 

“We are not there yet,” he admitted. “For me, I want to get a few Group 1s over the line and produce a good stallion. We have spent a lot of money and I will be proud when we start to bring more money back into the business [through a good stallion].”

In order to fulfill his ambitions in racing, Aguiar shared that he would be bidding to emulate the achievements of the O'Callaghans at Tally-Ho Stud, for whom he has a long and fruitful association working alongside. 

He explained, “I joined Tally-Ho when I left Ballydoyle and they help me and I help them. We still do a lot of business together and I am very good friends with Roger, Henry and Tony O'Callaghan. We are friends and we also respect each other. Any favour they ask me to do, I do it for them. They would also do anything for me. We are like family.

“They work very hard. Roger is a good person to buy and sell a horse and everybody trusts Tony. They will always help people who need to get a mare covered and will always try and do a deal for you even if you don't have the money there and then. 

“Kodiac (GB) brought them to the next level and now Mehmas (Ire) is doing the same. Everything that retires there, they do a great job for the stallion and they reinvest every year in new mares and facilities.”

He added, “Everything that I make, I put it back into building stables and buying my own mares. I do a lot of pre-training for Amo and I still have a few racehorses myself who I couldn't sell. 

“My business is starting to grow and hopefully I can keep on improving every year just like Tally-Ho has. I want to be competitive at the top level. I don't spend my money on anything else. I always invest, invest, invest. I want to be the best–I don't want to be just another person in the game.”

For those reasons, victory on Saturday would mean the world to Aguiar and he has full confidence in Bucanero Fuerte delivering the goods. 

“If everything goes right in the race, I think he should win. You can think this but you can never be sure. I bought the horse, I broke him and I ride him every day so it would give me a lot of pleasure if he was to win his Group 1 on Saturday. I sold a Group 1 winner already, Shantisara (Ire) (Coulsty {Ire}) in America, but I think this horse can bring me to the next level of the business.”

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