Derby Fever Strikes Again: $15 Million for an Allowance Winner?
Today is the day Ronald Sanchez said he'll decide whether or not to sell Social Inclusion, the unbeaten 3-year-old colt by Pioneerof the Nile who carried his Rontos Racing Stable silks to a track-record-setting victory at Gulfstream Park last Thursday over Grade 2 Remsen Stakes winner Honor Code in an allowance race. Unless Sanchez has a last-minute change of heart, don't look for a new owner when Social Inclusion makes his next start in stakes company.
The Paulick Report has learned Sanchez has rejected offers from as far away as Qatar and California, the highest bid said to be $8 million for the entire horse. “Everybody and his mother has tried to buy this colt,” one source said.
That source said Sanchez upped the ante significantly with an unrealistic $15 million counter offer, along with the condition that Manny Azpurua be allowed to continue as trainer.
We've heard of Kentucky Derby Fever before, with owners desperately trying to get into the big dance by paying too much for horses in the spring of their 3-year-old season, but that number – if accurate – sets new standards for absurdity. This is true especially when you consider it's less than seven weeks until the first Saturday in May, and Social Inclusion has zero points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.
Irrational exuberance in the equine world is real. Didn't Coolmore's Demi O'Byrne once sign a ticket for $16 million at a 2-year-olds in training sale on a horse who would later be named The Green Monkey? That son of Forestry failed to win a race in three subsequent starts, earning a grand total of $10,440 on the racetrack.
At least Social Inclusion has two wins on his resume: a 7 1⁄2-length victory over maidens going six furlongs Feb. 22 and that 10-length score over the comebacking Honor Code and three others March 12. Under Luis Contreras, he went wire-to-wire, covering 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.97.
Social Inclusion is by the Empire Maker stallion Pioneerof the Nile, whose first crop of foals conceived at Vinery in Lexington are now 3-year-olds. Moved to WinStar Farm near Versailles, Ky., for a fee of $20,000 after Vinery closed its U.S. operations, Pioneerof the Nile had a very good freshman year in 2013, ranking second to Dunkirk among first-crop sires by progeny earnings. Cairo Prince, his lone stakes winner in 2013, won the G2 Nashua, then was beaten a nose by Honor Code in the Remsen – both at Aqueduct.
Cairo Prince made his 3-year-old debut an impressive one for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and owners Namcook Stables, Paul Braverman, Harvey Clarke and Craig Robertson III, winning the G2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Since that win, a majority interest was purchased by Darley for a price believed to put the total value of the horse at upwards of $10 million.
Saint Bernadette, the dam of Social Inclusion, was a good racemare who sold for $200,000 as a Keeneland September yearling and went on to win a maiden and allowance race from eight starts, finishing third in the G2 Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks in her only stakes try.
Raced by Frank Stronach's Adena Springs, the daughter of Saint Ballado was not productive in her early years as a broodmare and sold in foal to Holy Bull for $20,000 at the 2009 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. That foal, a colt, brought $20,000 at the 2012 OBS June sale of 2-year-olds in training and is now in Korea.
Her owners, Robert Tillyer, Martin Keogh and Dr. Chet Blackey then bred Saint Bernadette to Pioneerof the Nile in 2010, the mating that produced Social Inclusion. After Social Inclusion sold as a yearling to Sanchez for $60,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale, Saint Bernadette was entered in that year's Keeneland November sale. She was listed as a $1,000 RNA from the Betz Thoroughbreds consignment, the same one that sold Social Inclusion.
Sanchez, according to Equibase, has campaigned one graded stakes winner in the U.S. in the name of Rontos Racing Stable, Wildcat Lily, winner of the 2013 G3 Azalea Stakes at Calder. He is listed in the Breeders' Cup biographies book (Rontos Racing ran stakes-placed Street Girl in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff) as a 44-year-old “financial adviser” born in Caracas, Venezuela, who divides his time between South Florida and his native country.
If I were offering financial advice to Sanchez, I'd say “take the highest offer.” Derby Fever, which can make people do irrational things sometimes, only lasts for a few more weeks.