How do you calm down a hot-blooded Argentine horse?
Put on a Latin jockey.
At least, that's the strategy the owners and trainer of Algenib (pronounced Al-he-neeb), the equine hero of Buenos Aires, will use Saturday in the Budweiser International.
For the first time, Laffit Pincay Jr., one of America's great jockeys via Panama, will ride the Argentine Triple Crown winner.
The key to a winning trip could be Pincay's ability to relax the fiery animal, at least during the first stages of the race.
The hope is that Pincay will be instinctively sympatico with the Argentine wonder horse and nurse him around Laurel's tight inner course turns.
"The horse is too fired up the first part of the race. That's where we have been having a problem," said trainer Wallace Dollase, who has had Algenib in California since March.
In three of the horse's first four U.S. starts, the past performance chart in the Daily Racing Form reads like footnotes from a demolition derby.
"Drifted out first turn," the chart reads for his winning U.S. debut at Hollywood Park in July.
"Took up leaving the chute, became rank, continued rank to the half-mile pole," is the comment after his fourth-place finish in the Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar.
"Rank early, tired" is the succinct summation for a fifth-place finish in his last start Sept. 22 in the Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park.
"Algenib is like a lot of Argentine horses that come to this country," Dollase said. "They are broken differently and are rank. In Argentina, they teach the horses to neck rein around the turns instead of hand-riding them. For instance, Ron McAnally had a tough time with [the Argentine mare] Bayakoa when she first came to California. Eventually, she settled down and became a champion. It helped having Pincay ride her. If a horse uses him self too early in a race, he'll have nothing left at the end."
Which is exactly what happened in the Man o' War.
Kent Desormeaux, Algenib's former jockey, looked like he might fit the horse, especially after a narrow miss to Tight Spot in the Arlington Million. But instead of improving in the Man o' War, Desormeaux backtracked.
"The pace was slow, and instead of letting Algenib run, Kent choked down on him," Dollase said. Desormeaux was sacked after that ride.
"Maybe it's just a shot in the dark," Dollase said. "But the feeling is that Pincay has more experience with this type of horse."
Pincay certainly has plenty of experience in the International. He won the race last year on California-based Fly Till Dawn and in 1986 with Le Glorieux for French trainer Robert Collet. It has been 15 years since a jockey put together back-to-back International wins. Sandy Hawley pulled off the double in 1975 and 1976, aboard Nobiliary and Youth, respectively.
Dollase first gained national attention last year by training Eclipse Award winner, Itsallgreektome, voted the country's best male grass horse.
Itsallgreektome won several stakes, finished second in the Breeders' Cup Mile and compiled 1990 earnings of $891,050. After that success, Dollase went looking for another top runner, and found him in South America.
"Algenib was horse of the year in Argentina," Dollase said. "Normally Ron McAnally has a monopoly on Argentine horses coming to the states [such as Bayakoa and Festin]. But Algenib's owner, Horacio Bauer, a banker in Buenos Aires, only wanted to sell part of him, and I don't think McAnally wanted any partners.
"Anyway, I flew to Argentina, spent five days with Mr. Bauer and fell in love with the horse. Algenib has an exceptional stride, real athletic action."
Bauer, and his son, Juan, own the majority of the horse in partnership with Robert Oliver of Long Beach, Calif. They will race in the International as the El Gallo Stable.
Algenib is an Arabic name, taken from a galaxy of stars in the Pegasus constellation.
Algenib could be second or third choice in the expected 14-horse International field.
"All we need is a lucky ride," Dollase said.
The probable favorite is Solar Splendor, winner of the Man o' War Stakes and Turf Classic in his last two starts. Golden Pheasant, ridden by Chris McCarron and trained by Charlie Whittingham, will also be heavily backed.
The rest of the lineup includes five French horses: a pair of 3 year-olds, Sillery and Fortune's Wheel; two fillies, Leariva and Miss Alleged, and Goofalik.
Other entries include expected pace-setters Jolie's Halo and Super May, local horses Rebuff and Karmani and New York horses Fourstars Allstar and Thakib.