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Social Inclusion focuses on Preakness

Social Inclusion led into the stretch of the Wood before finishing third (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Owner Ron Sanchez looked anything but dismayed that his beaten 8-5 favorite Social Inclusion didn't win the 90th running of the Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial on Saturday. On the contrary, he was delighted with his colt's third-place finish behind Wicked Strong and Samraat after clearing off by 1 1/2 lengths at the top of the stretch.

"He ate everything this morning; he's happy," Sanchez said Sunday morning as a bright-looking Social Inclusion took in the conversation across the shed row with his ears pricked.

Social Inclusion was scheduled to take a van out of Aqueduct at 2 p.m. (EDT) Sunday, and head down to Gulfstream Park to train for the Preakness Stakes on May 17. The Wood effort was an attempt to get the colt into the Kentucky Derby, but Sanchez said there would be no further push for the first leg of the Triple Crown.

"If we can make the Derby, we're going to go, but I think the main goal is the Preakness," Sanchez said. "It was the original plan. It's going to be tough to be in the Derby, you know? Actually, we are in spot 22 with 20 points, and there are like four preps coming up. It wasn't our main goal to get into the Derby, but we gave it a try."

Based on his first three races, Social Inclusion appears to be one of the best runners in his class. He won his first two starts in style at Gulfstream Park; in the second, he crushed Remsen winner Honor Code by 10 lengths in a 1 1/16-mile allowance on March 12, setting a track record of 1:40.97 and earning a 106 BRIS Speed rating.

In the Wood, however, Social Inclusion met adversity for the first time. The Pioneerof the Nile colt broke a bit outwardly at the start and then didn't make the lead, which he had in his first two starts.

Instead, he moved up from his outside post in the field of 10 and engaged Schivarelli, running stride for stride into the far turn, where he opened up by 1 1/2 lengths heading for home. Down on the inside, he tired a bit late and then lost a photo for the place by a nose to Samraat.

The quarter-mile fractional times for the Wood show Social Inclusion quickening as the race went on: :23.79 for the opening quarter, followed by :23.32 and :23.29 and then a :25.23. The final eighth of a mile went in 12.92 seconds.

Asked what he learned about his horse, Sanchez didn't hesitate: "He's a warrior, that's what I learned. He overcame everything and ran big. I thought he was going to win in the stretch. The concern was the track was too deep and slow in the stretch. All the closers came all day long. The only horse I was concerned with was Wicked Strong."

Marcelo Arenas, assistant to trainer Gary Contessa, said that TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial fifth-place finisher Uncle Sigh came out of the race in good shape and could head to Kentucky to wait and see if he gets into the Derby on points. With the top 20 guaranteed a slot in the starting gate for the Run for the Roses, the Wounded Warrior stables' color-bearer rests at No. 18 on the leaderboard with 24 points. However, there are two 170-point races remaining: the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park and the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland, both on Saturday.

"He really lost the race when he came out of the gate slow," Arenas said. "It's very disappointing, but Gary is considering bringing the horse to Churchill Downs. If we get in, great. If not, there's other races, maybe something like the Derby Trial (Grade 3 at one mile April 26)."

Contessa tweeted Sunday that Uncle Sigh will add blinkers next time.

Uncle Sigh's loss marked the first time the Indian Charlie colt had been worse than second in five starts, including two second-place finishes in the Withers and Gotham to Wood runner-up Samraat.

Harpoon, who finished ninth in the Wood Memorial, also emerged from his effort in good order.

"We'll probably freshen him up and run him in (an entry-level allowance)," trainer Todd Pletcher said.

Pletcher added that Grade 2 Gazelle winner My Miss Sophia and runner-up Got Lucky will be on a plane bound for Louisville, Kentucky, on Monday to prepare for their next engagement in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 2 at Churchill Downs. The trainer will have three starters in the race -- which he won last year with Princess of Sylmar -- including undefeated In Tune, winner of the Gulfstream Oaks on March 29.

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