Trainer Manny Azpurua

Trainer Manny Azpurua

Anne M. Eberhardt

Trainer Manny Azpurua Dies at 88

Venezuelan-born trainer saddled graded winners Nightmare Affair and Weigelia.

Trainer Manny Azpurua, a fixture on the South Florida Thoroughbred racing scene since 1980, died June 13 at Florida Medical Center.

The native of Caracas, Venezuela, who started the last horse of his training career at Gulfstream Park in April 2016, was 88.

Azpurua is survived by his wife, Sonia, two daughters, Teresa and Maria Margarita, and a son, Manuel, as well as his brother Eduardo, and nephews Eduardo Azpurua Jr. and Leo Azpurua Jr., who are both trainers.

"He truly loved the experience of training horses in this great country and getting the support of his clients he had over the years," Leo Azpurua Jr. said. "I will deeply miss him. He's been the leader of the family for many, many years."

Azpurua saddled several graded stakes winners, including 2006 Smile Sprint (G2) winner and Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) third-place finisher Nightmare Affair and 2004 Carry Back (G3) victor Weigelia , but attracted the most national attention with Social Inclusion  in 2014.

Social Inclusion began his career with two straight victories, including a 10-length allowance win over Honor Code  to break the Gulfstream track record for 1 1/16 miles at 1:40.97. The son of Pioneerof the Nile  went on to finish third in the Wood Memorial (G1) and third behind California Chrome  in the Preakness Stakes (G1).

Azpurua was born into a Thoroughbred racing family in Venezuela, where his father, Manuel Azpurua, was a prominent owner and a founding member of the country's Jockey Club, as well as a director of El Paraiso Racetrack. His brothers, Leo and Eduardo, were also trainers. After saddling more than 3,500 winners in Venezuela, Azpurua followed his brothers to South Florida to pursue a training career that would yield 984 winners.

Funeral arrangements were being formalized June 14.