King Of Steel Heads 13 Still Standing For Irish Champion Stakes

King Of Steel | Megan Ridgwell

King Of Steel (Wootton Bassett {GB}) heads the 13 still standing for Saturday's Royal Bahrain Irish Champion S. at Leopardstown on a weekend where the colt's owners Amo Racing could bid for a Group 1 double with Bucanero Fuerte (GB) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) on course for the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National S on Sunday. 

Trained by Roger Varian, King Of Steel heads the betting for the Irish Champions Stakes, the showpiece event of the rebranded Irish Champions Festival, and connections of the colt are predicting a bold display. 

“It's a very exciting time of the year and to be going to the Irish Champions Festival with two live contenders in two Group 1s is what we've been striving for over the last 18 months,” said Amo Racing's Tom Pennington.

“It's the culmination of real hard work from everyone involved, we're excited and I know the boss [Kia  Joorabchian] is really looking forward to it.”

Aidan O'Brien's dual Derby winner Auguste Rodin (Ire) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) is once again on the comeback trail after a below par effort in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot.

It was in that Group 1 contest where King Of Steel performed with credit to finish best of the three-year-olds in third behind the winner Hukum (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) and connections say that they are optimistic of better again at Leopardstown. 

“We've been looking for an option to drop King Of Steel back to ten furlongs all year, but so far it has just not presented itself and we're very much looking forward to it,” Pennington said.

“There's no such thing as an easy Group 1, but we've been waiting for this race to present itself. The horse is in great form, I saw him at the weekend and he did a routine piece of work and did it very nicely and let's hope he gets there in one piece now.”

Along with Auguste Rodin and King Of Steel, the 13 remaining in Saturday's contest feature Nashwa, Onesta and the supplemented Alflaila.

Bucanero Fuerte provided the Amo operation with a breakthrough Group 1 in the Phoenix S. at the Curragh last month and the Adrian Murray-trained colt is reported to be in top shape ahead of Sunday's National S. at the Curragh. 

Pennington said, “He has always been a strong stayer at six furlongs and looks as if he's been crying out for seven. His last furlong has been his best in his last couple of races.

“At the beginning of the season he was a big frame of a horse with an engine, now he is really maturing into the horse we hoped he would.”

If Bucanero Fuerte is to add another big-race victory he will have to lower the colours of Aidan O'Brien's City Of Troy (Justify), who is currently odds-on at the head of the betting.

City Of Troy made it two from two in the Superlative S. at Newmarket–and connections of Bucanero Fuerte are under no illusion they have a huge task on their hands.

“Bucanero Fuerte does like to get his toe in, but we wouldn't be overly concerned stepping up to seven–the one concern we do have is obviously City Of Troy,” added Pennington.

“You can't be frightened of one horse, but what he did at Newmarket, to the eye, was visually impressive. We know he will take a lot of beating, but we think we're going there with a live chance.”

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