Social Inclusion cuts back in distance for G2 Woody Stephens
By Jon Forbes | 06/05/2014 04:51 PM ET
As the owner of the speedy 3-year-old Social Inclusion, Ronald Sanchez had to choose one race among three options for his colt on the Belmont Stakes Day card. After extensive consideration, Sanchez and trainer Manuel Azpurua opted for the Grade 2, $500,000 Woody Stephens, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds.
The Woody Stephens was carded as the fifth race on the 13-race card.
Lightly raced Social Inclusion, 2-0-2 in four starts, will sprint for the first time since winning his debut by 7 ½ lengths in February at Gulfstream Park. He won a 1 1/16-mile open allowance by 10 lengths in March at Gulfstream before finishing third by 3 ½ lengths in the Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial in April at Aqueduct in his third start.
His connections decided to target the Preakness after the Wood Memorial, and the colt acquitted himself well when he battled hard to the wire to finish third, eight lengths behind winner California Chrome and a head in front of fourth-place finisher General a Rod.
Sanchez and Azpurua considered running Social Inclusion in the Grade 1, 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes for 3-year-olds and in the Grade 1, one-mile Metropolitan Handicap for 3-year-olds and up before opting in favor of the Woody Stephens. The Woody Stephens' shorter distance and the fact the race will start far away from what will be a massive crowd on hand at Belmont Park factored into that decision, Sanchez said.
"When we schooled him, he acted up behind the gate," said Sanchez. "It's not possible to run him in front of a large crowd. I want to run in the Belmont, but I was expecting the horse to settle down [when he schooled] at the gate. The Woody Stephens is seven furlongs and will start on the backstretch. No crowd there."
Social Inclusion raced in fifth early in the Preakness but showed sharp speed in his three previous starts. He has posted one official workout at Belmont since his arrival, blazing three furlongs in 33.55 seconds followed by a strong gallop out on Saturday.
"His last breeze was amazing, and he's cutting back [in distance]," said Sanchez. "The short distance should be better."
Social Inclusion will have a new rider on Saturday as Irad Ortiz, Jr. will replace Luis Contreras. The bay son of Pioneerof the Nile drew post 11 and was installed as the 7-5 morning-line favorite.
A dozen opponents are entered to face Social Inclusion in the Woody Stephens, including Bayern, who also is exiting the Preakness.
Bayern, owned by Kaleem Shah, easily won his first two starts at Santa Anita before setting the pace and yielding in the stretch when third in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. He traded punches with fellow Woody Stephens entrant Embellishing Bob from start to finish in the Grade 3 Derby Trial in April at Churchill Downs, holding on to prevail by a nose before being disqualified to second for brushing his opponent. In the Preakness, Bayern never fired, steadily falling off the pace to finish ninth, beaten 21 lengths.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Bayern will leave from post 1 at 5-1 on the morning line. Gary Stevens, who rode Bayern in his first three starts, will be reunited with the colt.
Havana, who won the Grade 1 Champagne as a 2-year-old in his second start, looks to rebound off a disappointing 3-year-old debut. A solid second in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile in November at Santa Anita, the gray colt was found wanting in the stretch of the six-furlong Gold Fever on May 4 at Belmont, racing evenly to report home third, beaten 2 ¾ lengths.
"I'm hoping he was a little rusty off the layoff," said trainer Todd Pletcher, who trains Havana for Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith. "Unfortunately, we had some foot issues that held him up. We had to him scratch him from the [Grade 2] Swale [in March]. We had a valid excuse going into the Gold Fever. We've subsequently gotten three quality breezes out of him, and I hope that race and the consistent works move him forward."
Havana, the 6-1 morning-line third choice, will leave from post 3 with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez aboard.
Fox Hill Farms' Coup de Grace brings proven seven-furlong form into the Woody Stephens, having rallied from sixth to win the Grade 3 Bay Shore by a nose in April at Aqueduct Racetrack. He had raced on the lead in his first three starts, victories in an Aqueduct maiden special weight and a Gulfstream optional claimer and a 10th in Gulfstream's Grade 2, 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull in January.
"Hopefully we'll get a solid pace to run into," said trainer Chad Brown. "I'd like to see a similar pace to the Bay Shore. We were cutting back to one turn [in the Bay Shore] and teaching the horse to rate in the morning. I wasn't sure if it was going to pan out, but then he missed the break, anyway, which put him behind, which was a good thing - it made him rate, and he did it effectively."
Javier Castellano will guide Coup de Grace, 10-1, from post 5.
Trainer Christophe Clement expects his entrant, Pure Sensation, to be part of the early pace. Pure Sensation has placed in all three of his stakes starts: a second in the James F. Lewis III at Laurel Park, a third in the Don Rickles at Aqueduct, and a second in the Gold Fever.
"He's very fast, he's very fast," said Clement. "I think I have a jock who can rate his speed. He'll probably be close to the pace, if not in front."
Owned Patricia Generazio, Pure Sensation, 30-1, will have the services of Cornelio Velasquez from post 13.
The field also includes Financial Mogul, Meadowood, Embellishing Bob, Tonito M., Favorite Tale, Spot, Kobe's Back, and Top Fortitude.
The field for the Grade 2, $500,000 Woody Stephens: