10/19/2008 11:00PM

Trainer profile: Ronald Pellegrini

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When Crowd Diva won the last race at Keeneland on Oct. 19, she stunned the betting public, returning $75. But for those familiar with the regular longshot success of trainer Ronald Pellegrini, the results were not altogether surprising.

Pellegrini, 64, has gained a reputation as one of the most successful longshot trainers in Kentucky. Including Crowd Diva, he has had at least three other horses win at odds of 30-1 or more over the last two years. Hapitano won a maiden race last fall at Churchill Downs at 38-1 odds; Petion Station took a first-level allowance at Churchill last spring at 30-1, and Striped Flag won a maiden race at Keeneland in the fall of 2006 at more than 50-1.

Although the public often discounts his horses, Pellegrini is not lacking confidence in them. He said he thought Crowd Diva would win Sunday at Keeneland, and he remembers telling Randall Toups, the jockey of Striped Flag, that he expected big things from her when she scored at 50-1 odds after a last-place finish in her debut.

"I told Randall this horse will win easy," he recalled. "And he said, 'Well, I guess I'll see you in the winner's circle.' "

Pellegrini, who trains exclusively for owner Herman Van Den Broeck at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, is at a loss to explain why his horses often go unnoticed.

"It's hard to say how things happen," he said. "We get in streaks where we get real hot and nothing lasts forever. We try as hard as we can."

Perhaps one reason Pellegrini's horses start at long odds is that he often uses riders that, although talented, do not attract a lot of betting support. Jesus Castanon rode Crowd Diva for him, but Jamie Theriot has been his usual go-to rider over the past year or so.

Secondly, on those occasions when his horses do not run well, they sometimes lose by large margins, making them difficult to evaluate in their next starts.

With the Churchill Downs fall meet beginning Sunday, horseplayers might want to pay more respect to Pellegrini's horses. His horses tend to perform well there, and not just the 30-1 bombs on the odds board. Since 2006, he has compiled a 9-9-8 record at Churchill Downs from 66 starters, generating a wallet-fattening return on investment of $5.68.

He is hopeful for another successful Churchill Downs meet after some of his horses regained fitness in comeback races this fall.

"We had a few horses at Keeneland that might have needed a race," he said.

Before the Churchill Downs meet begins, Pellegrini is aiming to have another favorable showing from a horse at Keeneland. He is pointing Matty's Trail for an allowance race Saturday, closing day of the Keeneland fall meet.

Matty's Trail, a 3-year-old Matty G. gelding, is unraced since finishing 10th in an allowance race on turf at Churchill Downs on July 6. Prior to that race, he had won two dirt races in a row at Churchill Downs in May and June.

It was not those races that Pellegrini notes in accessing his quality. It is a second at Churchill last fall behind eventual Travers runner-up Mambo in Seattle.

"He gets beat a head and has five of six lengths worth of trouble," he said.

Horseplayers can consider themselves warned.When Crowd Diva won the last race at Keeneland on Oct. 19, she stunned the betting public, returning $75. But for those familiar with the regular longshot success of trainer Ronald Pellegrini, the results were not altogether surprising.

Pellegrini, 64, has gained a reputation as one of the most successful longshot trainers in Kentucky. Including Crowd Diva, he has had at least three other horses win at odds of 30-1 or more over the last two years. Hapitano won a maiden race last fall at Churchill Downs at 38-1 odds; Petion Station took a first-level allowance at Churchill last spring at 30-1, and Striped Flag won a maiden race at Keeneland in the fall of 2006 at more than 50-1.

Although the public often discounts his horses, Pellegrini is not lacking confidence in them. He said he thought Crowd Diva would win Sunday at Keeneland, and he remembers telling Randall Toups, the jockey of Striped Flag, that he expected big things from her when she scored at 50-1 odds after a last-place finish in her debut.

"I told Randall this horse will win easy," he recalled. "And he said, 'Well, I guess I'll see you in the winner's circle.' "

Pellegrini, who trains exclusively for owner Herman Van Den Broeck at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, is at a loss to explain why his horses often go unnoticed.

"It's hard to say how things happen," he said. "We get in streaks where we get real hot and nothing lasts forever. We try as hard as we can."

Perhaps one reason Pellegrini's horses start at long odds is that he often uses riders that, although talented, do not attract a lot of betting support. Jesus Castanon rode Crowd Diva for him, but Jamie Theriot has been his usual go-to rider over the past year or so.

Secondly, on those occasions when his horses do not run well, they sometimes lose by large margins, making them difficult to evaluate in their next starts.

With the Churchill Downs fall meet beginning Sunday, horseplayers might want to pay more respect to Pellegrini's horses. His horses tend to perform well there, and not just the 30-1 bombs on the odds board. Since 2006, he has compiled a 9-9-8 record at Churchill Downs from 66 starters, generating a wallet-fattening return on investment of $5.68.

He is hopeful for another successful Churchill Downs meet after some of his horses regained fitness in comeback races this fall.

"We had a few horses at Keeneland that might have needed a race," he said.

Before the Churchill Downs meet begins, Pellegrini is aiming to have another favorable showing from a horse at Keeneland. He is pointing Matty's Trail for an allowance race Saturday, closing day of the Keeneland fall meet.

Matty's Trail, a 3-year-old Matty G. gelding, is unraced since finishing 10th in an allowance race on turf at Churchill Downs on July 6. Prior to that race, he had won two dirt races in a row at Churchill Downs in May and June.

It was not those races that Pellegrini notes in accessing his quality. It is a second at Churchill last fall behind eventual Travers runner-up Mambo in Seattle.

"He gets beat a head and has five of six lengths worth of trouble," he said.

Horseplayers can consider themselves warned.When Crowd Diva won the last race at Keeneland on Oct. 19, she stunned the betting public, returning $75. But for those familiar with the regular longshot success of trainer Ronald Pellegrini, the results were not altogether surprising.

Pellegrini, 64, has gained a reputation as one of the most successful longshot trainers in Kentucky. Including Crowd Diva, he has had at least three other horses win at odds of 30-1 or more over the last two years. Hapitano won a maiden race last fall at Churchill Downs at 38-1 odds; Petion Station took a first-level allowance at Churchill last spring at 30-1, and Striped Flag won a maiden race at Keeneland in the fall of 2006 at more than 50-1.

Although the public often discounts his horses, Pellegrini is not lacking confidence in them. He said he thought Crowd Diva would win Sunday at Keeneland, and he remembers telling Randall Toups, the jockey of Striped Flag, that he expected big things from her when she scored at 50-1 odds after a last-place finish in her debut.

"I told Randall this horse will win easy," he recalled. "And he said, 'Well, I guess I'll see you in the winner's circle.' "

Pellegrini, who trains exclusively for owner Herman Van Den Broeck at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, is at a loss to explain why his horses often go unnoticed.

"It's hard to say how things happen," he said. "We get in streaks where we get real hot and nothing lasts forever. We try as hard as we can."

Perhaps one reason Pellegrini's horses start at long odds is that he often uses riders that, although talented, do not attract a lot of betting support. Jesus Castanon rode Crowd Diva for him, but Jamie Theriot has been his usual go-to rider over the past year or so.

Secondly, on those occasions when his horses do not run well, they sometimes lose by large margins, making them difficult to evaluate in their next starts.

With the Churchill Downs fall meet beginning Sunday, horseplayers might want to pay more respect to Pellegrini's horses. His horses tend to perform well there, and not just the 30-1 bombs on the odds board. Since 2006, he has compiled a 9-9-8 record at Churchill Downs from 66 starters, generating a wallet-fattening return on investment of $5.68.

He is hopeful for another successful Churchill Downs meet after some of his horses regained fitness in comeback races this fall.

"We had a few horses at Keeneland that might have needed a race," he said.

Before the Churchill Downs meet begins, Pellegrini is aiming to have another favorable showing from a horse at Keeneland. He is pointing Matty's Trail for an allowance race Saturday, closing day of the Keeneland fall meet.

Matty's Trail, a 3-year-old Matty G. gelding, is unraced since finishing 10th in an allowance race on turf at Churchill Downs on July 6. Prior to that race, he had won two dirt races in a row at Churchill Downs in May and June.

It was not those races that Pellegrini notes in accessing his quality. It is a second at Churchill last fall behind eventual Travers runner-up Mambo in Seattle.

"He gets beat a head and has five of six lengths worth of trouble," he said.

Horseplayers can consider themselves warned.When Crowd Diva won the last race at Keeneland on Oct. 19, she stunned the betting public, returning $75. But for those familiar with the regular longshot success of trainer Ronald Pellegrini, the results were not altogether surprising.

Pellegrini, 64, has gained a reputation as one of the most successful longshot trainers in Kentucky. Including Crowd Diva, he has had at least three other horses win at odds of 30-1 or more over the last two years. Hapitano won a maiden race last fall at Churchill Downs at 38-1 odds; Petion Station took a first-level allowance at Churchill last spring at 30-1, and Striped Flag won a maiden race at Keeneland in the fall of 2006 at more than 50-1.

Although the public often discounts his horses, Pellegrini is not lacking confidence in them. He said he thought Crowd Diva would win Sunday at Keeneland, and he remembers telling Randall Toups, the jockey of Striped Flag, that he expected big things from her when she scored at 50-1 odds after a last-place finish in her debut.

"I told Randall this horse will win easy," he recalled. "And he said, 'Well, I guess I'll see you in the winner's circle.' "

Pellegrini, who trains exclusively for owner Herman Van Den Broeck at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, is at a loss to explain why his horses often go unnoticed.

"It's hard to say how things happen," he said. "We get in streaks where we get real hot and nothing lasts forever. We try as hard as we can."

Perhaps one reason Pellegrini's horses start at long odds is that he often uses riders that, although talented, do not attract a lot of betting support. Jesus Castanon rode Crowd Diva for him, but Jamie Theriot has been his usual go-to rider over the past year or so.

Secondly, on those occasions when his horses do not run well, they sometimes lose by large margins, making them difficult to evaluate in their next starts.

With the Churchill Downs fall meet beginning Sunday, horseplayers might want to pay more respect to Pellegrini's horses. His horses tend to perform well there, and not just the 30-1 bombs on the odds board. Since 2006, he has compiled a 9-9-8 record at Churchill Downs from 66 starters, generating a wallet-fattening return on investment of $5.68.

He is hopeful for another successful Churchill Downs meet after some of his horses regained fitness in comeback races this fall.

"We had a few horses at Keeneland that might have needed a race," he said.

Before the Churchill Downs meet begins, Pellegrini is aiming to have another favorable showing from a horse at Keeneland. He is pointing Matty's Trail for an allowance race Saturday, closing day of the Keeneland fall meet.

Matty's Trail, a 3-year-old Matty G. gelding, is unraced since finishing 10th in an allowance race on turf at Churchill Downs on July 6. Prior to that race, he had won two dirt races in a row at Churchill Downs in May and June.

It was not those races that Pellegrini notes in accessing his quality. It is a second at Churchill last fall behind eventual Travers runner-up Mambo in Seattle.

"He gets beat a head and has five of six lengths worth of trouble," he said.

Horseplayers can consider themselves warned.