Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Azpurua, 85, Hopes Social Inclusion Can Get Him Preakness Win

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Azpurua, 85, Hopes Social Inclusion Can Get Him Preakness Win

Article excerpt

BALTIMORE * Manny Azpurua could be retired, enjoying the South Florida sunshine. He could walk away from training, secure in his success back in Venezuela, where he won more than 3,500 races before coming to the United States 35 years ago.

Few would begrudge him wanting an escape from the rigors of the racetrack the pre-dawn wakeup calls, the physical labor, the constant worry about his horses.

Except that Azpurua is training the best horse of his life, at age 85. Heck, there's no way he wants to call it quits now. Not when he has Social Inclusion, a precocious colt with just three career races under his belt but a wealth of talent.

Social Inclusion won his first start by 7 lengths. In his second race, he won by 10 lengths and broke a track record at Florida's Gulfstream Park. Then he finished third in the Wood Memorial, aced out for second by a nose. As a result, he came up short on the points list that determined the 20 horses who qualified for the Kentucky Derby.

So Azpurua and his horse waited for the Preakness, where Derby winner and overwhelming favorite California Chrome will try to keep alive a bid for the Triple Crown with a victory on Saturday.

Social Inclusion is the solid 5-1 second choice in the 10-horse field.

A victory would make Azpurua the oldest trainer to saddle a Preakness winner, coming just two weeks after 77-year-old Art Sherman became the oldest to train a Derby winner in California Chrome.

"Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons was 82 years, 10 months when he won the 1957 Preakness with Bold Ruler.

"Every race is the same," Azpurua said Thursday in a soft voice. "The only thing different is the name."

If Social Inclusion is as inexperienced as Azpurua is wise, the trainer's faith in his horse remains solid.

"I love this horse," he said. "He's doing everything and I'm pleased about it. I expect a lot out of him."

Social Inclusion will have a lot of support in Venezuela, where, like Azpurua, owner Ron Sanchez is from. …

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