East Hall, Little Daddy and Big Guy Ian Face Favorite in $75,000 Sir Bear
Kentucky Derby Party Set with Drink Specials, Giveaways and Ten Palms Buffet
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - For Ron Sanchez and trainer Manny Azpurua, it all came down to a nose.
After watching their 3-year-old colt Social Inclusion win his first two starts at Gulfstream Park by a combined 17 1/2 lengths and become one of the most exciting horses on the Triple Crown Trail, Sanchez and Azpurua shipped the colt to New York for the April 5 Wood Memorial (G1).
The plan was simple. A first or second place finish would give Social Inclusion enough points to go to the Kentucky Derby (G1). Unfortunately, despite a game performance after setting the pace, Social Inclusion finished third, beaten a nose for second and a trip to Churchill Downs.
So instead of running for the roses come Saturday, Azpurua and Sanchez of Rontos Racing Stable Corp. will be at Gulfstream saddling Social Inclusion in the very competitive $75,000 Sir Bear, a mile race that will serve as a prep for the colt's expected trip to Pimlico Race Course and the May 17 Preakness Stakes (G1)
"Were we disappointed to lose a Derby spot by a nose? Sure, but you can't worry about these things," Sanchez said. "You know, our first goal all along was the Preakness, but we wanted to give him a shot (at the Derby) by going to New York. That was the right thing to do for the horse.
"It didn't work out to go to Kentucky, but patience pays off in horse racing. You can't rush a horse, and this horse could be the horse of a lifetime. So we're OK with running Saturday (at Gulfstream) and then going to the Preakness. He's doing fantastic and training great."
Social Inclusion, who will be ridden by Elvis Trujillo, will have to be at his best to beat seven others that includes the promising Little Daddy, Big Guy Ian and the stakes-placed East Hall.
Little Daddy, trained by Carlo Vaccarezza for Little Dreams Racing, has won his first two starts impressively; breaking his maiden March 15 at six furlongs by 3 1/4 lengths and then winning under allowance conditions at 6 1/2 furlongs March 30 by 1 1/4 lengths. Paco Lopez has been named to ride.
East Hall, third in the Gulfstream Park Derby behind Kentucky Derby entrants General a Rod and Wildcat Red, has been knocking heads all winter with the best of the 3-year-old division. He was fourth in the Fountain of Youth (G2), eighth in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and fifth last time out in the Florida Derby (G1). Trainer Bill Kaplan has named Juan Leyva to ride.
Big Guy Ian, trained by Michael Dilger for Anstu Stables, broke his maiden at Gulfstream Jan. 25 before finishing sixth last time out under allowance conditions behind Constitution, who would win the March 29 $1 million Florida Derby. Manoel Cruz has the mount.
Along with its 10-race program highlighted by the Sir Bear, Gulfstream will play host to Florida's biggest Kentucky Derby party with drink specials and souvenir glasses, a special Derby buffet at Ten Palms, giveaways and a hat contest. Silks opens at 9:30 a.m. with the first race post at Churchill Downs at 10:30 a.m. Advance wagering on Saturday's Kentucky Derby is available Friday at Gulfstream. First race post at Gulfstream Friday and Saturday is 1:25 p.m.