While the Hong Kong International Races take center stage this weekend, there is also another overseas racing event that will have my interest on Saturday.
The Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini, a one-turn, 1 1/2-mile grass test at San Isidro racecourse outside Buenos Aires, has long been considered South America’s equivalent of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Although few of its past winners have made an impact outside the continent, a couple recognizable names include Forli, who sired the legendary Forego after his importation to the U.S., and Algenib, who later won the Golden Gate Handicap and ran second in the Arlington Million.
I don’t follow racing in Argentina that closely, but I do like to take a stab for fun on some of their major events. The Carlos Pellegrini is usually a fascinating handicapping exercise – this year’s edition will have 20 horses and 16 betting interests – and I typically like to find two or three horses to back at a price.
After a few years of trying, I finally cashed in last year’s Pellegrini with Soy Carambolo, who went off at 12-1 in Argentina but at a niftier 16-1 in the American pool. The now seven-year-old is back to defend his title on Saturday, hoping to become the first back-to-back winner since Storm Mayor in 2005-06.
Other obligations and the language barrier prevent me from investing too much time internet researching the background of every horse. However, a set of past performances (available at Brisnet.com), basic handicapping fundamentals, and a little intuition are generally good enough to get by.
In no particular order, here are a few Pellegrini entrants I’ll be taking a look at:
SOY CARAMBOLO (#16), as the defending champion, is obviously not flying under the radar this time. Last year he entered the Pellegrini off a disappointing fifth in the Gran Premio Copa de Oro- Alfredo Lalor, a course-and-distance Group 1 prep, but actually won that race by a head in his most recent start on November 1. He’s listed at 9-2 in the U.S. morning line, which might be worth taking if it stays in that vicinity.
KING KON (#10, 15-1) handles any type of ground and has acquitted himself nicely since August, taking a Group 2 event over 1 7/8 miles and finishing second in the Gran Premio General San Martin, a 12-furlong Group 1 at Palermo.
Three-year-olds have a surprisingly decent record in the Pellegrini despite the fact they’re facing tough older horses in what is springtime in Argentina. FELICHE (#6, 12-1) returns to the grass after finishing fourth in the Gran Premio Nacional, which was his first start on dirt. He’s been more effective on San Isidro’s short, fast-playing turf, over which he’s won twice and placed in the Gran Premio Jockey Club.
CURSI ROY TOP (#4, 20-1) might be among the best bred horses in the race. A son of Giant’s Causeway, he hails from a female family absolutely loaded with Argentinean black type. The catch is that he was a distant third in his only other group stakes appearance 13 months ago when he was a maiden making his second career start. However, he enters off a swift, two-length allowance win over 10 furlongs and on paper appears to have plenty of upside.
ORDAK DAN (#13), who is listed at 50-1 on the U.S. morning line, would certainly be a bomb. He was last, beaten 27 lengths, in his November 28 return following an 18-month layoff. However, it must be noted that was on dirt, a surface he has never placed on in three attempts. Prior to the hiatus, he had won five of his previous six starts, including four in a row, over the San Isidro lawn. The last score came in the Gran Premio 25 de Mayo, a 1 1/2-mile Group 1, where he beat Soy Carambolo by three-quarters of a length.
Taking an action bet approach is a great way to enjoy the Carlos Pellegrini, one of the grand spectacles of South American racing. Fans in the U.S. can participate via TwinSpires.com on Saturday with wagering and live video available as Laurel’s 11th race.