The last horse to come out of Uruguay to compete against top American horses was Invasor, the Argentinian bred super horse whose only defeat came at the hands of Discreet Cat. Invasor was last seen in the 2006 Breeders' Cup passing the great Bernadini on his way to winning the $10 million Breeders' Cup Classic. On Saturday at Belmont Park another horse to light up the Uruguayan night will be entered in the G2 Kelso. The horse is Brujo de Olleros; a Brazilian bred, whose races in Uruguay were so impressive that it peaked the interest of Team Valor International and co-owner Rick Santulli to privately purchase the champion colt. Team Valor International is widely recognized as having an astute eye for equine talent, particularly in the souther hemisphere, their most successful horse is the Brazilian bred Kentucky Derby/ Dubai World Champion Animal Kingdom.
In all honesty it wouldn't have taken the keenest of eyes to spot the talent of Brujo de Olleros, as the last race he ran in Uruguay was a visually impressive juggernaut. In the G1 Gran Premio Pedro Pineryryua, Brujo de Olleros absolutely freaked against 12 other horses. On that day he broke a 75 year old record for the mile, running the race in 1:33 and 1/5th seconds, and crushing the G1 field by 14 lengths. The race that day capped a nearly flawless three-year-old season, where de Olleros won four of five races.
After the purchase the hose was greeted in the states with a buzz about him as he went off as the 3/2 favorite in the Majestic Light Stakes at Monmouth Park. The colt did not live up to the hype that day as he finished a dull fourth out of seven horses. Thinking possibly he may excel on grass, then trainer Graham Motion tried his hand on the turf in the G2 Bowling Green at Belmont Park. Unfortunately the change of surface and added distance did nothing to help as he again finished a dull fourth.
After those two disappointing efforts it would be easy to assume it was the added distance that did de Olleros in, and concede that he was a classic miler. However Barry Irwin, CEO of Team Valor, felt that it was the transition of hemisphere that may have did him in. In an interview on the team Valor website Irwin said…
"I had seen horses from the Southern Hemisphere take as long as a year to fully acclimate, and this horse just did not look right to me last summer, even before he ran.We sent him to Bill Recio in Ocala last winter, since Bill had a lot of past success working with horses from the Southern Hemisphere. He got him going and by the time the horse was ready to join Rick Mettee at Fair Hill in early May, he finally looked like he did when we bought him."
So after a ten month layoff and the trainer change, de Olleros was entered in an overnight stakes at Parx. In that race the five-year-old ran his strongest race in N. America, overcoming a deep 10 horse field to finish strong for second. But it was in his next race at Delaware Park in the Carl Hanford Memorial Stakes that de Olleros really looked like his S. American form finally caught up with him. In that race de Olleros broke well, tracked the leaders before taking over at the quarter pole. By the time he hit the wire de Olleros was geared down but still won by just over six lengths.
This Saturday Brujo de Olleros will face his toughest competition yet. The Grade 2 Kelso will feature Multiple grades stakes winners Hymn Book, Jackson Bend, and Graydar. Also running will the aptly named Souper Speedy, who had his own blowout victory earlier this year, winning an allowance race at Belmont Park by 10 lengths. Against this field Brujo de Olleros is slated as a 12-1 long shot, but make no mistake there will be money pouring in from South America hoping to see what this horse is really capable of.