Durazzo heads field for Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini, first Breeders' Cup Challenge Series race

December 16th, 2022

The race that is arguably the most important in South America is being staged this weekend.

Fifteen horses are due to take part in the Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini (G1), a 2,400-meter (about 1 1/2-mile) race on turf for horses aged three and up at San Isidro racecourse in Buenos Aires. In recent years, it has also heralded the start of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series, with the winner earning a place in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) should the connections wish to travel north for it.

This year’s event is being overshadowed somewhat in Argentina by the FIFA World Cup final in Qatar the following day, where Lionel Messi’s Argentina takes on France. That game is so huge in Argentina that the scheduled races at Palermo racetrack in Buenos Aires have been cancelled.

However, plenty of eyes will remain on the 50 million peso (about $290,000) Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini. As always, it’s where the three-year-olds that contest the Argentine Triple Crown take on older horses for the first time. Any horse that adds the Carlos Pellegrini to the Triple Crown is said to have won the Quadruple Crown, though it’s not on the line this year as the Triple Crown races fell to three different horses — two of which are in this field.

If you want to have a bet on which horse joins legends like Botafogo, Macon, and Forli on the honor list, TwinSpires offers betting via the Laurel Simulcast.

Nine of the 15 runners this year are three-year-olds, a fact which reflects the lack of a clear leader among that generation. Unfortunately they do not include Natan, winner of the second leg of the Triple Crown (the about 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club (G1) on turf) who is being kept away through injury.

The other two winners of Triple Crown legs are undoubtedly the best three-year-olds in the race on form. #4 El Musical won the first leg, the about one-mile Polla de Potrillos (G1), before finishing a very close second to Natan in the Jockey Club and then second in the third leg, the about 1 9/16-mile Nacional (G1) on dirt.

El Musical was run down in the Nacional by #9 Nino Guapo, who earlier finished third in the Polla de Potrillos. Unlike El Musical, Nino Guapo is not proven at the top level on grass, but his pedigree is full of turf runners and it’s best to assume he’ll handle it.

Only six older horses have paid up for the race, but they are a classy bunch. They are headed by #10 Mirinaque, who American racing followers might remember from a five-race stint in the U.S. in 2020, in which his best effort was a second-place finish in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes (G2) at Keeneland. He is having his third attempt at the race, finishing second in both 2019 and 2021.

Mirinaque remains in good form, having won the General San Martin (G1) and the Dardo Rocha-Internacional (G1) in the past two months. A victory would be popular; his only question mark is that he doesn’t have a top-level winning effort on grass.

Perhaps the leading older horse in the race, however, is the four-year-old #11 Durazzo. He didn’t run in the Triple Crown races last year but has emerged as a genuine topliner in 2022. He’s now won his last six races, including three Grade 1 contests: the 25 de Mayo, the Estrellas Classic, and the Copa de Oro. All but the Estrellas were on turf, and in each, he unleashed a stunning turn of foot to easily beat his rivals.

The wild card for the race is #7 Irwin. He won the Nacional by nine lengths last year, having earlier won the Polla de Potrillos and being disqualified after finishing second in the Jockey Club. However, the 2021 Nacional was his last race in Argentina; at his only subsequent start, he finished a well-beaten 14th of 16 in the UAE Derby (G2) in Dubai. If he runs up to his Nacional form he would be a chance, but it’s unknown if he’s in that form, or if he will be as effective on turf.

Of the others, perhaps the best of the relative outsiders is the three-year-old #8 El Cid Campeador; fourth in the Jockey Club, he missed the Nacional in favor of a prep race on turf in the about 1 1/2-mile Clasico de la Provincia de Buenos Aires (G3), scoring a nice victory.

While it would be nice for sentimental reasons for Mirinaque to win, it’s hard to go past Durazzo. He’s looked outstanding this year, especially on turf, and he should cap an outstanding year with victory here.

Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini, 5:30 p.m. ET – Race 11 on Laurel Park Simulcast (Race 13 at San Isidro)

  • $10 win/$30 show: #11 Durazzo
  • $1 trifecta: 11 with 4, 7, 8, 9, 10 with 4, 7, 8, 9, 10