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Aktabantay To Melt Hearts

IT was love at first sight, if such a statement can be applied to man and horse, and tomorrow’s Group 3 European Wealth Solario Stakes gives Aktabantay the chance to prove Hugo Palmer was right when he lost his heart to the juvenile.

“I remember seeing him at the yearling sales last year and he has always been the most gorgeous horse. He stuck in my head,” Palmer says. “I had been to see him and Rob Speers, [owner] Mr Arachi’s racing manager, had been to see him and when we sat down at the end of the day to decide which ones to buy we were both in agreement that this was a horse that we didn’t want to go home without and fortunately Mr Arachi bought him.”

Aktabantay did not come cheap with Ibrahim Arachi forking out 370,000gns for the colt. However, he has so far shown useful form on the track including a second to Estidhkaar in the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket last month and Palmer believes there is more to come, starting tomorrow.

He says: “He has got some way to go but he is a horse that I have always held in the highest regard. The Solario is a race the owner won a couple of years ago with Native Khan and if Aktabantay can justify my faith in him it will be great to give him another winner in the race. Native Khan ran well in the Guineas and the Derby and if we win the race then we can start dreaming about doing better than him in those races next year.”

Assessing the opposition, Palmer adds: “The Godolphin horse [Future Empire] could be their best two-year-old and he won a race at Newmarket where the form has worked out well but he needs to improve a stone to be up near Aktabantay.

“There is no reason Future Empire can’t improve and I think we will need to improve from our mark of 104 to win at Sandown. Aktabantay has been growing and filling out and his work has been excellent so I would hope that he is capable of doing better.”
This weekend is the focus for Palmer at the moment but he is already eyeing a couple of contests next weekend for two more useful runners in his stable, Short Squeeze and Home Of The Brave.

Short Squeeze won for the first time this season under a thrilling ride from Pat Smullen last week at York having failed to build on a successful time last year.

However, Palmer feels there is better to come from Short Squeeze and says: “Anyone that read my website would have known that I had been scratching my head as to why I could not get him to win. I do not believe we have not seen anywhere near the best of him yet. I think he can be a very, very smart horse. “He will go for the Superior Mile at Haydock next weekend, which is a race that Top Notch Tonto, who we beat at York, won last year.”

Of Home Of The Brave, a winner of a two-year-old maiden at Newmarket, Palmer adds: “The plan for Home Of The Brave at this stage is the Sirenia Stakes at Kempton next weekend. You have to make judgement calls in life and I thought that [sire] Starspangledbanner was going to be something special and wanted to get my hands on as many as possible. Home Of The Brave is the only one we managed to get but I was underbidder on The Wow Signal at Ascot. We had £20,000 to spend and we bid up to £48,000. He made £50,000!”