Is he or isn’t he? That is the question everyone is asking on the subject of Social Inclusion being one of those so-called freaks that only come along on rare occasions.
The colt’s owner, Ron Sanchez of Rontos Racing Stable, certainly believes the son of Pioneerof the Nile is a freak, and he is putting other people’s money where his mouth is—$8 million, to be exact—and that for a horse with only two career starts who has never run in a stakes.
But what a two-race career it’s been; a 7 1/2-length maiden romp at Gulfstream Park in 1:09 1/5 on Feb. 22, earning a 93 Beyer Speed Figure, and a 10-length drubbing of the top-class graded stakes winner Honor Code in a 1 1/16-mile Gulfstream allowance race March 13, in which he stopped the teletimer in a track-record 1:40 4/5 to earn a whopping 111 Beyer.
The $8 million offer for 75 percent of the horse came from “outside the United States,” according to Sanchez, and is the highest of the four over-the-top offers the owner has turned down, deciding instead to give Social Inclusion a chance to earn his way into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) by finishing first or second in the $1 million TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct Racetrack April 5.
For Sanchez, Social Inclusion represents a lot more than money, no matter how high the dollar signs soar. The native Venezuelan said it’s more about loyalty to his trainer and a lifelong dream of following in the hallowed footsteps of the Caracas Cannonball, Canonero II, who shocked the world by winning the Kentucky Derby in 1971 and putting Venezuela on the racing map.
“I wanted to keep a piece of the horse and retain a breeding right, and to keep him with Manny (Azpurua), but I couldn’t get the deal done,” Sanchez said. “Everyone would say, ‘We deal with our trainer.’ Manny is 85 years old and old school, and he’s someone I respect. He’s loyal and is a legend in Venezuela, where he won 3,500 races. There is no reason to take the horse away from him, no matter how much money they offer. Manny is patient and the horse knows his training methods. If you take the horse away, I believe he will ‘bounce’ in the Wood.
“I’m a risk taker, and if the horse wins the Wood, I’m sure a couple of people will come to us with a contract. Everything will keep building, the price included.”
Sanchez said the other three offers for the colt came from interests in the United States.
“Not everything in life is about money,” Sanchez said. “When you work hard and have a dream it goes beyond money. I’m trying to work to make that dream come true. So I will take the risk. To me, I have nothing to lose. When I bought this horse (at the Keeneland September yearling sale for $60,000) I told Manny, ‘I think we’ve got our Derby horse. This is the dream of a lifetime.’ He had a nice walk and a nice stride, and it was love at first sight. He was a late foal and we decided to give him plenty of time.
“I originally sent him to California to (trainer) Jeff Bonde and he had five bullet works. But my headquarters are at Gulfstream and that’s where Manny was, so I decided to bring him back to Florida and change his training methods. Manny doesn’t work his horses much and he gives them plenty of time. So far it’s paying off.”
Sanchez is not concerned about history being against such a lightly raced horse. He just needs to get the points—the Wood is worth 100 to the winner and 40 to the runner-up—to make the Derby starting gate.
“I don’t think he’s inexperienced,” he said. “He’s such a special horse; he does things so easily. He’s already traveled to California, then to Florida, and now to New York. He’s a horse who always knows what to do once he gets on the track. There is a lot of speed in the Wood, but that doesn’t concern me, because he can stalk them. He’ll know what to do.”
"Like everyone else, I've been blown away by Social Inclusion, and now I have to run against him," said Uncle Sigh's trainer, Gary Contessa. "He has the numbers, but he's still untested."
So Sanchez will attempt to live out his dream starting Saturday, and will deal with the monetary aspect of it afterwards. His philosophy right now is simple:
“We came here to get points and we’re not playing games. Hopefully, God will bless us.
“Cheer for him Saturday.”