SOCIAL INCLUSION MAKES PREAKNESS SCENE AT PIMLICO
Azpurua to Seek Historic Win May 17; California Chrome Gallops at Churchill; Sanchez To Ride Pablo Del Monte
BALTIMORE, 05-08-14—The 77-year-old Art Sherman, who became the oldest trainer to saddle a Kentucky Derby winner last Saturday with California Chrome, is just a kid to Manny Azpurua. The 85-year-old South Florida-based trainer was on hand at Pimlico Race Course Thursday morning for the arrival of his stable star, Social Inclusion, who is scheduled for a run in the 139th Preakness Stakes on May 17.
Azpurua, not Sherman, will have the opportunity to become the oldest trainer to send out the winner of the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown and eclipse the record of legendary “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons, who was 82 years and 10 months old when he scored with Bold Ruler for a 1957 Preakness victory.
“We’ll see if we can make it,” the soft-spoken Azpurua said. “I expect him to run a good race.”
Social Inclusion, who finished third in the Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct in his most recent start, arrived at Pimlico at 5:48 a.m. Thursday following an 18-hour, 44-minute van ride from Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla. He was accompanied by assistant trainer Roberto Riasco, who has worked for Azpurua for 39 years. Hey Leroy, who will run in the $400,000 Dixie Stakes (G2) on the Preakness undercard, also made the trip.
The 3-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile walked the shedrow of the Preakness Stakes Barn with good energy before being bedded down in his stall. Owned by Rontos Racing Stable Corp., Social Inclusion was showing no ill effects from a foot bruise that kept him out of the Sir Bear Stakes at Gulfstream last Saturday.
“That’s not a problem,” Azpurua said. “He’s good.”
Social Inclusion is the first Preakness candidate during Azpurua’s long and successful career that includes more than 3,500 winners in his native Venezuela and nearly 950 winners in the U.S.
“It’s my first time. You know how you feel when you do anything the first time. It’s exciting,” he said. “He may be the best horse I’ve trained. I’ve had a lot of nice horses in my country and here.”
Social Inclusion debuted for Azpurua at Gulfstream on Feb. 22 while running six furlongs in 1:09 1/5 and scoring by 7 ½ lengths. The late-developing Kentucky-bred colt came back on March 12 to break the Gulfstream track record for 1 1/16 miles, defeating favored Honor Code by 10 lengths in 1:40 4/5. Making the jump from entry-level allowance to Grade 1 company, Social Inclusion raced wide on the first turn before setting the pace and coming up short in deep stretch to finish third behind Wicked Strong and Samraat.
“In the Wood Memorial, I believe he learned a lot,” Azpurua said. “I’m so pleased the way he ran. I think he’s going to run a good race. He’s been doing everything I’ve asked him. He’s got his mind on running.”
Azpurua is planning to send Social Inclusion to the racetrack at 8:30 a.m. Friday to get acquainted with the Pimlico surface during a once-around jog and once-around gallop.
Luis Contreras, who has been aboard Social Inclusion in all three of his career starts, has the return mount for the Preakness.
In other Preakness News:
Steve Coburn and Perry Martin’s Kentucky Derby (G1) hero California Chrome galloped 1½ miles with Willie Delgado aboard shortly before 7 o’clock Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.
California Chrome stood in the gap leading to the track for about five minutes and did not move a muscle as photographers recorded the scene and horses went to and from the track. After the exercise, California Chrome walked quietly back to Barn 20.
“His temperament is excellent,” said Alan Sherman, assistant to his father Art Sherman, who is back at Los Alamitos and will reunite with the Derby winner in Baltimore next week. “He got a little fired up on the walkover (before the Derby) but he settled down once he got in the paddock.”
California Chrome’s final time in the 1 ¼ mile Derby of 2:03.66 was the slowest on a fast track since Cannonade (2:04) in 1974.
“I think he just tolerated the track,” Sherman said. “This track is deeper and sandier than at Los Alamitos and the dirt is different. It is a lot darker at home. But, they don’t pay any more to break track records.”
California Chrome is expected to ship to Maryland at the earliest on Monday if the charter flight is available. For Delgado, it is a trip back home; for Alan Sherman, it’s a first.
“Never been there,” Sherman said. “I think my dad rode at Bowie. I am 45, and that was long before I was around.”
Trainer Wesley Ward said jockey Jeffrey Sanchez will ride Pablo Del Monte. It will be Sanchez’s first Preakness mount.
Sanchez, 28, gets on a lot of horses for Ward and is very familiar with Pablo Del Monte, though the Preakness will mark his first time on the colt in a race.
“He’s worked him throughout his whole life,” Ward said. “He’s a rider who has won the Breeders’ Cup, the Juvenile Fillies, with Awesome Feather. He won all the races on Awesome Feather (who was 10-for-11 in her career) and he’s won for me in many different countries. In Europe, he’s won races in France for me at Longchamp and Chantilly. He rode Madman Diaries when he was the Sovereign Award winner as the champion 2-year-old colt in Canada. He’s won lots of stakes races for me, but he’s the kind of guy who flies under the radar a little bit.”
Sanchez was named on Pablo Del Monte for the Kentucky Derby, but Ward scratched and pointed to the Preakness rather than have his homebred start from post 20.
“He’s a strong rider but that hinders him a little bit because he’s muscular and he’s a little heavy,” Ward said. “But I’ve had a lot of luck with him; he works very hard and is a very nice young guy.”
Pablo Del Monte is training at Keeneland and is scheduled to arrive at Pimlico on Wednesday.
Daniel Dougherty’s Ride On Curlin walked to the track from Barn 47 at Churchill Downs to the six-furlong gap, where exercise rider Bryan Beccia hopped aboard and then followed with an easy gallop of 1 1/8 miles.
“He’ll do the same thing tomorrow, then Saturday gallop two miles and maybe pick it up late,” trainer Billy Gowan said.
If the charter flight is arranged to take Derby winner California Chrome and Ride On Curlin to Baltimore on Monday, Gowan said he will have the colt gallop a mile Tuesday and work an easy half-mile at Pimlico on Wednesday.
At this point, Ride On Curlin and California Chrome appear to be the only Kentucky Derby runners lining up for the Preakness. Of the nine in the prospective field, they are the most experienced: California Chrome has 11 starts and Ride On Curlin has 10.
“The seasoning definitely helps and I think it is a big advantage,” Gowan said of his battle-tested colt. “Now if we can get a little more early pace this time; it may not hurt him (California Chrome), but it will help us.”
Dougherty, who will have two 2-year-olds joining the Gowan barn soon, is slated to arrive in Baltimore Tuesday for his initial visit to Pimlico. Beccia, however, has been to Pimlico before as the exercise rider for 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos.
Monarchos ran the second-fastest Derby in history, but failed to reproduce that form in the Preakness, finishing sixth behind Point Given, a colt he had beaten by 11 ½ lengths in the Derby.
“Monarchos came out of the Derby just as good as Ride On Curlin,” Beccia said. “Monarchos shipped good and trained well. He was a happy horse and you can look at pictures of him galloping in the stretch with his ears pricked.
“Unfortunately, the real Point Given showed up (at the Preakness). Hopefully, after the Preakness and Belmont, the real Ride On Curlin will have shown up.”
Trainer Linda Rice has notified the Maryland Jockey Club’s racing office that she intends to ship Kid Cruz from Belmont Park to Pimlico on Monday. Kid Cruz is scheduled to have his final Preakness work this weekend at Belmont Park.
Kaleem Shah’s Bayern galloped 1½ miles Thursday morning at Churchill Downs after the morning renovation break with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez up.
Five-time Preakness winning trainer Bob Baffert conditions Bayern and he is following a pattern he has used for his past five Preakness starters by having them train at Churchill Downs for a week and a half after the Kentucky Derby and ship to Baltimore the Wednesday before the race.
Baffert’s five Preakness victories are good for a tie for third all-time behind only Robert Walden (seven) and D. Wayne Lukas, who got his sixth last year with Oxbow. Baffert is tied with Thomas Healey.
Lookin at Lucky in 2010 is Baffert’s most recent Preakness winner.
John Oxley’s Illinois Derby (G3) winner Dynamic Impact galloped 1½ miles under exercise rider Marco Cano early Thursdaymorning at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Mark Casse, who has not had a Preakness starter, Dynamic Impact is scheduled to work Saturday at Churchill Downs with jockey Miguel Mena slated to be in the saddle.
Christopher Dunn and Loooch Racing Stable’s Ria Antonia galloped 1½ miles under Maurice Sanchez early Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.
After finishing sixth in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (G1), Ria Antonia was moved from Baffert’s barn to Tom Amoss, who trains a string of horses for Ron Paolucci of Loooch Racing.
“That’s the first time I have had one moved into my barn that close to a Grade 1 race,” said Amoss, who has Ria Antonia scheduled for a Monday work.
However, Ria Antonia was not a total unknown to Amoss.
“I did not see her last fall when she was in the Breeders’ Cup, but I got to watch her train for two weeks before the Oaks when she came out in the 8:30 time slot (reserved for Oaks and Derby horses),” Amoss said. “She was very impressive and that is what I want to see now.”
Tampa Bay Derby winner Ring Weekend is slated to have a breeze on Saturday that will be pivotal in trainer Graham Motion’s decision whether or not to enter him in the Preakness.