Remsen Stakes winner Honor Code was defeated by Social Inclusion March 12 at Gulfstream Park as the speedster drew away to a 10-length victory in track record fashion.
Honor Code, a leading 3-year-old contender, was making his highly anticipated first start of 2014 as 1-2 favorite and 123-pound highweight in the 1 1/16-mile allowance event worht $75,000. He was wide into the first turn but moved up to track Rontos Racing Corp.'s Pioneerof the Nile colt up the backside.
He could not cut into Social Inclusion's advantage, however, while left behind in upper stretch, and was a distant second under jockey Javier Castellano. Social Inclusion, ridden by Luis Contreras, drew off to finish in 1:40.97 to eclipse the previous record posted by Devil's Cave of 1:41 flat Feb. 16.
"He was doing it so easy. I wasn't doing anything. He's a tremendous horse," said Contreras, who hand rode Social Inclusion under the finish line.
Social Inclusion, the second choice in the five-horse field at 7-5, returned $4.80, $2.20, and $2.10. Honor Code paid $2.10 and $2.10, while third-place finisher We're All Set brought $2.10 while finishing another 17 ¼ lengths back. Specialnightaction and Ta Bueno trailed.
It was the second start and second straight win for Social Inclusion, trained by Manny Azpurua. Bred in Kentucky by Robert Tillyer, Martin Keogh, and Dr. Chet Blackey out of the Saint Ballado mare Saint Bernadette, the $60,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase came off his debut maiden victory by 7 ½ lengths Feb. 22 going six furlongs at Gulfstream. Luis Contreras was in the irons; Social Inclusion carried 119.
"From the first time we trained him, we knew he was something special," said owner Ron Sanchez of Rontos Racing Stable. "The next step, we're going to wait and see how he comes out of the race. We'll take our time. We'll wait until next week and decide, but we definitely want to go to the [Kentucky] Derby."
The 85-year-old Azpurua, a South Florida mainstay, declined to commit to a next start, but expressed a belief that the Kentucky-bred colt will only get better with each start.
"I really like this horse and I like everything he's done since I've got him. I'm so pleased with him and I believe he's going to keep improving," Azpurua said. "I told my wife before the race, 'You're going to see him break out of the gate and they're never going to catch him. They'll be 10 lengths behind.'"
Lane's End Racing and Dell Ridge Farm's Honor Code was making his fourth start for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey and his first since winning the Remsen Nov. 30 at Aqueduct Racetrack. The son of A.P. Indy, bred in Kentucky by Dell Ridge out of the Storm Cat mare Serena's Cat, was runner-up in the Foxwoods Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park last October off his maiden win first time out in August at Saratoga Race Course.
"I knew how the race was going to set up," McGaughey said. "[Social Inclusion] had speed and he had two 35 [second works] since he ran, so I knew he would go. The track was really fast this morning, and horses ran 1:08-and-change earlier in the day.
"I'm disappointed he didn't win, but we got a race into him and I don't think Javier killed him by any means. We'll see if he goes forward off of this. I think the horse that won is a very, very special horse."
Castellano was hardly downcast after the defeat of Honor Code, whose training had been interrupted by bruised ankles in January before moving from Payson Park to Gulfstream to resume training.
"The track had been playing pretty fast," he said. "It's hard to catch up to the horses that go out on the lead. With a small field, sometimes it's hard with my horse's style he likes to come from behind. I had to use him a little bit to be tactical and he responded.
"I'm very fortunate with the way he did it today. It was a good performance. Unfortunately we got beat. But I like to look at the big picture -- his season is just starting and I'm pleased with the way he came back."