DUBAI // While polishing his four-handicap golf game in his native South Africa, trainer Herman Brown is hatching a plan that, if successful, will see him achieve what only one other handler has achieved in 117 years. Brown and his assistant, Nicolas Iguacel, want to win Argentina's biggest horse race with a northern hemisphere horse - the Irish-bred stallion, Mourilyan. A look at the statistics prove it is no small task.
Just 14 times in its 122-year history has the annual Group One Gran Premio Internacional Carlos Pellegrini turf race, now worth US$300,000 (Dh1.1m), been won by a horse non-Argentine horse. And only once in living memory has the race been taken by a runner from outside South America - the US-bred, Fregy's who triumphed in 1996. But even though that stallion, crowned Horse of the Year when he won the race, was born in Kentucky, he went to Peru three years before he had a tilt at the Carlos Pellegrini.
Before that the last northern hemisphere winner to triumph over the mile-and-a-half at the Hipodromo San Isidro near Buenos Aires, came from France back in 1892 in the shape of Athos II. Now Brown, who has been training horses for 25 years, thinks it is worth giving the five-year-old Mourilyan the chance to compete in Argentina before, in all likelihood, standing at stud. "It's not a definite plan yet," said Brown. "Nothing is ever certain in racing of course and we have to see how the horse progresses this summer and discuss it further with his owners, but we have that thought in mind for him."
Mourilyan, who has two successful seasons in Dubai under his belt and has also run in Ireland, England and Singapore, is in England at trainer Gary Moore's yard under the care of Iguacel. He is expected to start work in the next few weeks before running in preparation races for Moore. He will then switch back to Brown for his December challenge. "He travels so well and he's not going to race for ever and he's the kind of horse that can stand up well to racing in Argentina," said Brown.
"In Europe he's probably a Group Three horse to be honest, so we think it's worth giving him a chance in Argentina." One point very much in Mourilyan's favour is the fact that champion jockey, Ryan Moore, has agreed to ride in Argentina, providing the race does not clash with other commitments. "It was something that Herman and I discussed last year," said Argentina native Iguacel. "I'd always thought Mourilyan would be a nice horse for Argentina. A lot of Argentina's best young horses are being bought to race in America and Dubai and we feel he has a chance going the other way.
"The fact that Ryan has agreed to ride him is a bonus. Now we are going to get him fit, keep him sound and see how he is closer to the time." firstname.lastname@example.org