James McIngvale, owner of one of the 12 slots for the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (gr. I), has privately purchased a three-time group I-winning Argentine-bred runner with the hopes of making the Jan. 28 race.
Eragon (ARG), a soon-to-be 6-year-old son of Offlee Wild—Express Time, by Shy Tom, arrived in the United States early Dec. 19 and will spend the next seven days in quarantine in Miami, Fla.
Trainer Laura Wohlers will leave from her Central Kentucky base to South Florida before Christmas to settle into the barn area at Gulfstream Park.
North American breeders should be familiar with the pedigree. Offlee Wild, who died earlier this year, was the leading first-crop sire of 2009 while standing at Darley. He is the sire of 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Bayern , who defeated Toast of New York and California Chrome , the likely favorite for the Pegasus.
Eragon is out of the Shy Tom mare Express Time. A multiple grade III winner, Shy Tom was bred and raced by W.T. Young’s Overbrook Farm and was a six-time stakes winner in 36 starts from 1988-91.
Owned by Vignatta Roberto Antanio and trained by Roberto Pellegatta, Eragon has won 10 of 20 starts. Sixteen of those starts have come on turf but Eragon also has enjoyed recent success on the dirt. His two top-level wins on dirt have come in the Estrellas Mile (Arg-I) in late June and the Gran Premio Hipodromo De Palermo (Arg-I) Nov. 12.
“Some of his best races look like they were mile races on the dirt; he’s run in 1:33 and 1:34 (1:34.91),” Wohlers said. “He’s got some speed although he’s an off-the-pace type. He’s run a mile and a quarter and his rider thinks he’ll go further. I think he'll do both surfaces.”
Wohlers said she, along with her vet, went to Argentina before Thanksgiving to look the horse over.
“He’s a real calm horse,” she said. “He’s a well-minded horse. He’s settled," Wohlers said. "His competition hasn’t been as tough but he’s won at the grade I level there. If he can throw the same races here that he’s run there…”
McIngvale purchased his slot in the Pegasus World Cup when they first went on the market and had hoped his Runhappy , last year’s sprint male champion, could stretch out to the nine-furlong distance. Runhappy was retired after finishing unplaced in the Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) Nov. 4 at Santa Anita Park. The son of Super Saver is preparing for his first year at stud at Claiborne Farm.
McIngvale had aggressively been seeking a horse to run in the inaugural Pegasus World Cup.
“Mac thought buying an American horse just wasn’t an option because he won’t run on Lasix,” Wohlers said of McIngvale. “Hopefully this horse is a good enough runner that he can go in the Pegasus.”
Acclimation from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere has traditionally been an issue with Thoroughbreds. Also facing a horse of the caliber of California Chrome is a high hurdle that McIngvale and Wohlers are well aware of.
“The biggest problem is he’s on his ‘summertime hours’ there,” Wohlers said. “We are hoping the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) will let us set up some artificial lighting. To me, that is the most important thing that his body clock doesn’t go from 15-hour daylight days to eight-hour daylight days. That will help.
“We might run last but we might beat Chrome. He’s something else, and it is tall order, but you never know.”