Pegasus World Cup scouting report: Argentine import Eragon
Intrigue is probably the best Eragon can hope to provide, however. Between a less-than-ideal preparation for the task of his life against the likes of Arrogate and California Chrome, and a deep-closing running style that puts him up against it at a track like Gulfstream Park, he may find it a difficult spot to do himself justice.
On the plus side, Eragon sports a 10-for-20 mark indicative of a horse with a thoroughly likable attitude. Although he’s spent most of his career on turf, the son of Offlee Wild has scored two of his three Group 1s on the dirt. To underscore his versatility, he’s won exactly half of his starts on each surface (8-for-16 on turf and 2-for-4 on dirt).
Eragon, a half-brother to Group 1-placed El Atlantico, hails from a solid family. Their dam, the Shy Tom mare Express Time, is a half-sister to the dam of past Godolphin star Rio de la Plata. While the female line is prolific in Argentina, it is also responsible for South African legend Empress Club.
A debut winner at two, Eragon nevertheless needed time and maturity to reach his peak form. He eventually scored his stakes breakthrough in the 2015 Premio Macon at about nine furlongs on San Isidro’s turf, and concluded his sophomore campaign with a rallying fourth in the Gran Premio Estrellas Mile (G1), held over the same grass course.
Eragon took a leap forward as a four-year-old. Swooping from last in a four-horse field in the Premio Ecuador (G2) at a metric mile, he later snared his first Group 1 laurel from the clouds in the Gran Premio Joaquin S. Anchorena (G1). You can just pick him up in the black-bluish-and white striped silks near the back of the pack, before he drops totally out of view in the stretch. Only in the final furlong does he come roaring into the frame:
Last June, Eragon tackled the Estrellas Mile again, this time contested on the dirt at Palermo. He hadn’t tried dirt in more than a year, and had yet to win on it, but neither stat proved an obstacle. With a ferocious pace setting up his trademark late kick, he was along in time to prevail.
After a couple of losses on turf, Eragon reverted to dirt in the November 12 Gran Premio Hipodromo de Palermo (G1), once more rolled from far back in the metric mile, and won going away. Runner-up Le Ken (a three-year-old who was receiving 11 pounds from Eragon) franked the form by coming back to land the Anchorena over older horses.
According to a report on turfdiario.com, Eragon was initially penciled in for an Anchorena title defense. But in the meantime, he was privately purchased by Jim McIngvale, who was looking for a Pegasus runner after the retirement of his champion sprinter Runhappy.
Thus Eragon was whisked off to Miami, where he spent a little more time than forecast in quarantine, before joining new trainer Laura Wohlers. Now in the United States barely a month (since December 19), and at Gulfstream for only two weeks at this writing (since January 5), he’ll get just two official moves ahead of the Pegasus. Eragon logged the first, a half in :49.93, on January 14.
“We’re way behind on training and preparation, of course, because he was detained in quarantine for an extra week,” Wohlers told Gulfstream publicity. “We maybe won’t get the best race of the year out of him this time, but hopefully he will run well.”
Eragon’s been uprooted from the team that developed him into a top-class performer back home. Former trainer Roberto Pellegatta and regular rider Gustavo Calvente brought out the best in him.
In their post-race quotes on turfdiario.com, both emphasized that Eragon has a certain method of operating. Pellegatta freely admitted that his one-run style will help him at times, and cost him at others, but it’s essentially a live by the sword, die by the sword situation. You have to let him be where he’s comfortable, let the chips fall where they may. Calvente commented that Eragon has a terrific burst of speed, but it’s short-lived. He figured out how long to hold onto him, and when to deploy his charge. In the replays, you can detect the teamwork that really clicked – whether it was the rider’s confidence born of a longstanding relationship, or simply his gentle hands that coaxed forth Eragon’s response.
Note that his Group 1 wins on dirt came at Palermo, which is much kinder to his running style than Gulfstream. Palermo is a 1 3/8-mile circuit with a three-furlong homestretch (see Alan Shuback’s Global Racing, p. 288). The often speed-conducive Gulfstream is a 1 1/8-mile oval with a significantly shorter homestretch of 898 feet (not even a furlong and a half).
Pellegatta paid great tribute to Eragon as a “noble” horse with a lot of heart (“mucho corazon”) who gives his all. He’ll be a willing trier in the Pegasus, but it’s asking an awful lot.
Photo of Eragon working at Gulfstream courtesy of Leslie Martin/Coglianese Photography