El Encinal Triumphs in Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini Internacional 

December 17, 2023

El Encinal (Photo Courtesy Breeders’ Cup Limited)

Son of Il Campione Gains First Automatic Berth into 2024 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar

Breeders’ Cup Press Release

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – El Encinal (ARG) pulled a 14-1 upset and earned a Breeders’ Cup berth Saturday evening when capturing the Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini Internacional (G1) at Hipodromo de San Isidro just outside Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Craftily ridden by Eduardo Ortega Pavon, El Encinal split rivals in mid-stretch of the 2,400-meter (1 1/2 miles) turf race before getting up in the final jumps to nail No Fear (BRZ) by a head in a thrilling finish.

The Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini Internacional, the most prestigious race in South America, is the first Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In race of the 2024 season. With his narrow victory in a field of 14 3-year-olds and upward, El Encinal earned an automatic starting slot in the 2024 running of the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) through the series.

After the top two finishers, it was about two lengths back to Treasure Island (ARG) in third. Jazz Seiver (ARG), part of a favored entry, was fourth.

The triumph was by far the most noteworthy in the nascent racing career of El Encinal. After being defeated in his first five starts, he now has won three of his last four. He was a nose winner of an August maiden race in his sixth start, then wheeled back to win the Group 3 Ensayo in September, both at San Isidro. His lone interim attempt resulted in a sixth-place finish behind Happy Happy Day (ARG) in the age-restricted Jockey Club (G1) on Oct. 7, also at San Isidro.

El Encinal is a chestnut 3-year-old colt by the Chilean sire Il Campione, a son of the noted late sire Scat Daddy, and was produced by the Argentine mare Asediada Emper, by Emperor Jones. Miguel Alberto Gomez trains the colt for the Stud Dona Pancha, perhaps best known to American racing fans as the owner of Calidoscopio, winner of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Marathon.

Pavon had El Encinal nicely settled while saving ground in mid-pack for much of the Pellegrini while Happy Happy Day sped off to an open lead down the backstretch and into the turn. Down the long homestretch, Treasure Island first took over for Happy Happy Day, after which the filly No Fear made a sustained run to take full command with 100 meters to go. It was only a determined late run by El Encinal that snatched the win from No Fear in the shadow of the wire, with the winning time being 2:25.46.

The three-way Group 1-winning entry of Natan (ARG), Happy Happy Day, and Jazz Seiver – all owned by Stud Las Monjitas, the Argentine powerhouse stable – was the 19-10 favorite among 12 betting interests. No Fear (BRZ) and Treasure Island (ARG) were next, both at 7-2, with El Encinal among the middling choices at 14.25-1. Natan, a 25-length winner of the 2022 Jockey Club as a 3-year-old, was the major disappointment Saturday when failing to be a serious factor.

Befitting its status, the Pellegrini was the centerpiece of a festive day of racing at San Isidro, filled with music, parachute jumpers, and much more pomp and pageantry enjoyed by a large crowd. The race was first run in 1887.

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is an international series of stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which are scheduled to be run for the 41st time next Nov. 1-2 at Del Mar in Del Mar, California.

As part of the benefits of the Challenge series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for El Encinal into the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf. Breeders’ Cup also will provide a travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships. Any Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by the pre-entry deadline of Oct. 21, 2024, to receive their rewards.

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