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Apr 04, 2014

Social Inclusion invades New York's Wood Memorial

By: By Jeff Frank, The Sports Analyst

 Philadelphia, PA ( - Verrazano and Gemologist, the last two Wood Memorial winners, came up from Florida to grab New York's final Kentucky Derby prep race.

Social Inclusion looks to complete the hat trick on Saturday.

Trained by 85-year-old Manny Azpurua, Social Inclusion has won his two career starts in impressive fashion. His debut came on a speed-favoring surface at Gulfstream Park on the Fountain of Youth undercard. The bay colt did not get off to a great start from the rail and had just two horses beaten right after the break. However, the son of Pioneerof The Nile, with urging from jockey Luis Contreras, quickly moved to the top in a 22-flat first quarter.

Social Inclusion then carried Contreras to a 5 1/2-length lead with a furlong remaining before winning by 7 1/2 lengths in 1:09 1/5 for the six furlongs. He ran his final quarter-mile in 24 3/5 seconds after a scorching 44 3/5 first half. In addition, Tiger Tank, the second-place finisher, went to Aqueduct and won his next start by four lengths.

Social Inclusion's next outing came 2 1/2 weeks later in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park. Most Kentucky Derby prognosticators were keen to see how he would fare against Honor Code, Shug McGaughey's Remsen Stakes winner.

Once again, Social Inclusion drew the rail, but this time he enjoyed a trouble-free break, galloping out to a 2 1/2-length lead after a deliberate 24 1/5 first quarter in the 1 1/16-mile race.

He then opened up on Honor Code heading into the far turn while running a dynamic 23 1/5 third quarter. With very little urging from Contreras, Social Inclusion ran his next quarter-mile even faster than the previous one and finished up the 8 1/2-furlong event in 1:40 4/5.

The race that was set up as Honor Code's return proved to be a no-contest as Social Inclusion broke the track record winning by 10 lengths, with another 17 1/4 lengths back to the third-place finisher.

Not many 3-year-olds are able to run like the wind, breaking track records in their second career start, so it appears Social Inclusion has what it takes to be something very special.

However, his naysayers point out he has yet to face any adversity, outside of a poor break in his debut, and that his two races were both on rock-hard, speed-favoring surfaces. Moreover, he has yet to look eye to eye with a decent 3-year-old, something that he will probably have to do in the Wood Memorial.

Still, it is interesting to note that Social Inclusion blew away We're All Set by over 27 lengths in his second start. For comparison purposes, Constitution, another colt that did not race as a 2-year-old, also defeated We're All Set in his second start but by only seven lengths, and the son of Tapit went on to win the Florida Derby in his next outing.


It might be a monumental task for another horse to win the Wood Memorial, but 10 others have lined up against the potential superstar to try to make their way into the Kentucky Derby.

The most accomplished of the group is Samraat. The Gotham Stakes winner is looking to add the Wood to his mantle, but even if he does, the Gotham-Wood winner has never won the Kentucky Derby. That makes Social Inclusion's prospects at Churchill Downs a little brighter since there has been one horse to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a 2-year-old.

Samraat, a New York-bred, has been as consistent as they come with three consecutive stakes victories, all around two turns. Nevertheless, Uncle Sigh, his New York-bred archrival, has gotten closer of late, losing by a neck in the Gotham after falling by a length in the Withers.

The Gotham was a three-horse photo with In Trouble finishing a neck back in third. Unfortunately for the two New York-breds, their form was not flattered when In Trouble failed to fire in the Louisiana Derby, losing by almost nine lengths to Vicar's in Trouble.

It is crucial for the Wood participants to finish first, second or third because all but Samraat need more Derby points. How that will play into the running of the race is a key factor which almost all trainers and jockeys have to think about.

One other critical aspect is the break. Social Inclusion drew the far outside post position (No. 11), which is a lot different from his two earlier inside draws. Will Contreras have to use some of the colt's early speed to get the jump on the likes of Kristo (No. 6 post position), Samraat (No. 8 post position) and Uncle Sigh (No. 10 post position), or will he try to rate his charge around the first turn and settle in mid-pack?

Either way, this race will give the public a better indication of how Social Inclusion handles adversity even though the colt still might not get dirt kicked in his face if he is able to stay outside of horses due to his outside post.

Wood Memorial - 1) Social Inclusion 2) Samraat 3) Uncle Sigh


Back in mid-February, I wrote about the importance of not skipping Kentucky Derby prep races run in late February and early March. At that time, the connections of three horses were thinking of resting on their laurels and not racing their colts in order to have them peaking on May 3.

One of the three, Cairo Prince, skipped the Fountain of Youth and finished fourth in the Florida Derby, leaving him in limbo of even making the Kentucky Derby.

Samraat was another, but trainer Richard Violette Jr. opted to race him in the Gotham and was rewarded with a 50-point victory and a guaranteed spot in the Derby.

The third horse was Candy Boy. The Robert B. Lewis winner has not raced since Feb. 8, and now must finish in the money in the Santa Anita Derby to qualify for the Run for the Roses. Luckily for him, the Santa Anita Derby field, outside of California Chrome and Hoppertunity, is extremely thin so he should be able to hit the board.

Candy Boy was patiently ridden by Gary Stevens in the Robert B. Lewis, switching from the inside to the four-path in the stretch to get past Chitu by one-half length. The son of Candy Ride ran his final 2 1/2 furlongs in a quick 30 2/5 seconds. Since then, he has been sharp in his morning workouts more so than ever before.

California Chrome doesn't need to win this race after dominating the San Felipe but could very well do so, especially considering he should have a dream trip sitting behind the expected early pacesetter, Dublin Up. As is the case with Candy Boy, California Chrome continues to dazzle in the mornings at Los Alamitos, so expect another outstanding performance.

Hoppertunity will be everyone's third choice, but don't be surprised if he falters since this will be his fifth start since Jan. 4. All the traveling from California to Arkansas, back to California, then to Louisiana and now back to California could take its toll on the Bob Baffert-trained colt.

Santa Anita Derby - 1) California Chrome 2) Candy Boy 3) Schoolofhardrocks


1) California Chrome - Must continue to impress to hold the top spot

2) Social Inclusion - If he wins Wood from post 11, he could move to No. 1

3) Bayern - It's on to the Arkansas Derby for the undefeated Baffert colt

4) Candy Boy - A solid effort on Saturday will set him up nicely for Ky Derby

5) Toast of New York - Will be a force in Ky Derby if connections decide to go

6) Constitution - Professional victory in Florida Derby; best of the rest

7) Conquest Titan - Needs points to qualify; gets Borel for Arkansas Derby

8) Ring Weekend - Late riser runs in ungraded Calder Derby on Saturday

9) Intense Holiday - Should improve off subpar effort in Louisiana Derby

10) Chitu - Baffert's charge continues to outrun pedigree; don't overlook

11) Samraat - Wasn't flattered by In Trouble's Louisiana Derby performance

12-T) Hoppertunity - Beat a weak field in Rebel; tough to take in SA Derby

12-T) Tapiture - Doesn't have the pedigree to last the 1 1/4 miles in Kentucky

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