Derby Fever Strikes Again: $15 Million for an Allowance Winner?

by | 03.19.2014 | 11:06am
Social Inclusion cruises home in a Gulfsteam Park allowance race

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.

  • Really?

    So they don’t say if the dam is still around….. I would think she is worth more than 1000 now.

    • Mylute

      She us still around and is in Lexington. She has a 2yo filly by Scat Daddy and an English Channel foal by her side. She didn’t sell.

      • Really

        Oh good, got worried. They had a story about someone having claimed a half sister to social inclusion cheap a while back and how they have had offers on her.

      • Knowitall

        Good news to know she is alive and still in production after RNA for 1k. Thanks.

  • Greg G

    If this guy does not take the $8 million – he will be listed as one of the biggest fools of our
    generation. It takes more than a great horse to win the KY Derby. It takes a lot of luck, and you pray the horse doesn’t get injured. Take the money Sir.

    • Might he be waiting for Green Monkey money?

    • Knowitall

      True. He is just begging karma for bad news that will make the colt worth 80,000.

    • jackh

      Not if he won the Derby, doubtful, but who knows…I’m sure there are others out there but if they want one that bad I got one with Points they can buy for a million..

  • Mike Connors

    I have a big, beautiful 2 year old Pioneerof the Nile colt in training in Kentucky and it won’t take $8 million for him to change barns.

    • for that kind of money, they live in BARNS?
      (See reference to $88M penthouse, either above or below this comment, depending on the up voting trend.)

  • David

    I see this horse running in a 30K N3L at Philly Park by next year…Take the $$$

    • Match race with the Green Monkey on July 4th.


    mr sanchez is up in age let him enjoy the momment that what racing is all about

    • Susan Crane-Sundell

      Mr. Sanches is 44 that is not up in age. Social Inclusion’s trainer, Mr. Azpurua is in his 80’s and probably really enjoying this ride.

      Sanchez has development options. $8M may not seem to be all that much to him. However that is certainly a great return on his investment. Mr. Sanchez stated that he wouldn’t accept any deal where he didn’t retain an interest and that Mr. Azpurua didn’t remain Social Inclusion’s trainer. The higher end offers were for outright purchase. Let’s hope whatever happens, Social Inclusion reaps the best end of the deal and gets to live in luxury.
      Also hopefully as the season progresses Social Inclusion will continue his winning streak and his dam, St. Bernadette whose namesake was known for her visions of Our Lady of Lourdes, will increase in value and this will improve her lot as well.

      • Knowitall

        Mare RNA’d for 1k in ’12. Is she even still alive?

  • Kingturf

    Didn’t the late great Charlie Whittingham say…”Every horse is for sale.”

    • LongTimeEconomist

      I remember Moody Jolley saying exactly that when he trained for Claiborne, who had stopped selling at auction.

  • From a different perspective:

    Paintings by artists who were, at the time of their commission, drinking wine in bottle with screw caps now routinely sell for $100-300 MILLION dollars.

    A major Wall Street major domo in the recent past unloaded his penthouse at 15 Central Park West in NYC for $88,000,000.00.

    Kentucky, if the news I heard is accurate, pays a basketball coach $4,000,000 a year.

    Now. What is this rounding error we’re discussing?

    • Matthew Martini

      Good points, Mr. Reed. On Sunday I’m going to the museum to see the “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” by Francis Bacon here in Portland, Oregon, which sold for $142 million at auction last November. The price for the work boggles the minds of most humans, including my own. But there are people with pockets that deep. That is a crazy price for something to hang on the wall.

      The last I checked, and if my memory is accurate, there were only four horses based in North America who have won more than $8 million on the track: Curlin, Cigar, Skip Away, and Animal Kingdom. Obviously, the breeding rights are huge and add tremendous value beyond that. Would I sell Social Inclusion for $8 million? Yeah, I probably would, but maintain a small percentage for the breeding rights. It would be tough to turn down that kind of money.

      • I think $142 million is what Lucian ended paying for child support.

        What is par for the course is that 69 years later, while Lucian Freud is famous (some say notorious), Walter Freud (grandson of Sigmund) – who risked his life in WWII as an SOE agent (UK) – is all but a forgotten man.

        Reminding me about Animal Kingdom is a cheer-me-up. Thanks!

  • fb0252

    owner with gold chains around his neck enters track kitchen. sits down at table with group of trainers eating lunch:

    Owner: I have a talented horse that’s worth at least $30,000. What do u fellows think I should do with him?

    Silence at the table, and knowing exchange of raised eyebrows.

    Finally one of the trainers known as a man of few words replied.

    “sell him.”

    true story from Prairie Meadows

  • Tommy

    i call BS on the 8 million offer

    • Glimmerglass

      I have to agree that it just doesn’t pass the validity test. These wild stories are always private transactions and I’m sure a lot of puffery goes on.

      No harm no foul with fanning the flames of such “revelations” as it is sport in its own right. Certainly these tall tails are what makes the buzz around a track all the more interesting to the mainstream media and now twitter, etc.

      Realistically would say an outfit like Coolmore, with the deepest pockets around, offer even ‘just’ $2M (let alone $8M) for this horse today? That seems doubtful at this juncture. Win the FL Derby in the same display as the last allowance race? It would be very likely then for something near $3.

      Taking nothing away from his efforts to date but SI has no Derby Points attached to him, no graded stakes starts, and even as of yesterday his Future Book value with William Hill is just 25-1. For comparison Bond Holder in the same odds release was 30-1 and he’s likely off the Derby trail now.

      We can all cite how a GTO Ferrari sold for over $25M, a Van Gogh painting over $100M, fine books for $2M, etc but the reality is this is a business. A G1 level running horse winning back even $3M in purchase price is dubious let alone just an allowance winner.

    • Knowitall

      4 mil for the colt, and 2 mil for each front wrap?

      • santacruzchuck

        Mine That Bird wore four wraps !!!

        • Knowitall

          And had won a stakes as I recall and only cost 400k. No one went nuts since there weren’t any.

  • tcrookham

    My husband and I have a small owner/breeding operation in SCal. None of my horses are, or ever will be for sale at any price. The couple of times we had to run at claiming level, when we first started or in one case claimed a horse and had to make eligibility, were the worst and we have no intention of putting them at risk again. If they’re at that level then they are retired. So no, not every horse is for sale.
    I find it interesting that an owner wants to keep control of his horse so he can make sure it’s being cared for, but is ridiculed for doing so. Yet many want to talk about greedy horrible owners that don’t care for their horses. It really isn’t about the money for most, it’s about the horses. Trust me, you’re lucky if a horse breaks even usually you spend much more than you make.

    • Knowitall

      While your stance is very rare and commendable, and not sure what you would really do with a horse like this, I don’t think Sanchez asked for 15 million because he was worried about the care the horse would receive if he only sold for 8 mil. And he is prepared to let the horse move to another trainer if he has to – he will compensate the current trainer.

      • tcrookham

        We’re firm on the no sell. Our horses are our children, we’re their advocates, they can’t speak for themselves and they wouldn’t get better care and love than from us. We won’t even have partners because of how much they mean to us. He set up a nearly impossible price with the condition that the horse stay with his trainer. He doesn’t want to sell or he wouldn’t have put that clause out there.

        • Knowitall

          I think he very much wants to sell 75% and has been issuing press releases since the race claiming he does, and is using the press to bait offers. Sanchez has been publicly quoted as saying he prefers the horse stay with his trainer, but if he can’t make the deal he wants (most money) with that condition, so be it, and he will be sure to compensate his trainer. The part he will not bend on is keeping 25% for himself.

          You are awesome for putting your money where your heart is with your horses. They are very lucky animals. If you somehow someday came into ownership of a, say Curlin level animal, would you stand him at stud in Kentucky and retain full ownership, giving the farm that managed and stood him a certain number of breeding rights and paying for his board and advertising? Would you buy good mares for him?

  • pierreb

    mister sanchez senior is 85 years old not 44 get the fact straight

    • betterthannothing

      So… At 85 Mister Sanchez has a built-in excuse to do anything that might be judged as nutty to the “every horse is for sale” crowd.

      It is unusual for an owner to broadcast about a potential transaction like he is. I agree with Tommy who said “i call BS on the 8 million offer” and I think this old fox is using the press to raise the bid.

    • Knowitall

      Breeders’ Cup bio says owner is 44. You sure you don’t have him confused with the trainer?

      • pierreb

        look up rontos racing on equibase there two of them senior and junior

  • Richard C

    A Tibetan mastiff puppy was just sold in China for almost $2 million…..the buyer is a property developer. For a select few, cash is very disposable when it comes to special treats.

  • Jay Stone

    This horse could be the next Seattle Slew or an ordinary horse who took advantage of a very fast track to post two runaway wins. His works were always very fast but that is the way that trainer trains. Nobody can really tell u which road he will go. There are people of enormous wealth who don’t really differentiate between 2 million and 10 million to get their hand on a good 3 year old. This matter of selling a horse usually isn’t advertised as it has been but the owner should take his money, compensate the trainer, and end his 15 minutes of fame which most people are tired of hearing about.

    • Mike Connors


  • riatea

    Considering some dude just paid 2 million for a DOG in China I’d say 15 million is about the right money for a silly rich person to pay.

  • Knowitall

    Maybe this hard spun guy thinks it is still 2007, has lost his street sense, and believes on any given saturday there is Mo Bitcoin for a pioneerof the nile?

  • munibroker23

    I have an interest in a Empire Maker colt who last year right about this time had Two 3rd’s and a 2nd running in MSW at The Fairgrounds. We bought him as a yearling for under 100k. We had 5 offers come in with the highest being 475k with kickers to bump the deal to 700k. Needless to say the partners voted not to sell. Later this month he will be looking to break his maiden in a MSW at Charlestown. Lesson be learned. Derby fever only come around for a brief period.

  • Larry Ensor

    Having been a bloodstock agent for going on 30 years now I can tell you first hand that enormous offers have been made and turned down along with outrageous asking prices for horses that any other time of the year I would be laughed at for making the call or for advising not to take. Derby Fever is real. But due to the limited amount of the population it effects there is no vaccination for it.

    Every couple of years I would get a call either from a principle or another agent looking for a Derby prospect. And would make offers for a horse like this maybe with a little less form for a couple of million. A solid looking Derby horse one that most likely will have enough earnings to get in the gate with stakes form $3-5+++ million depending on pedigree and form. There have been plenty of very serious offers made and turned down over the years. Plenty of people spend millions on a one day party. What could be a better party for family and friends then to have a horse in the Derby. IMO worth every cent.

    Most potential Derby horses are owned by people who have a lot of money already. If not bred or bought as a yearling they are snapped up at much more realistic money months ago.

    As one owner said to me years back, “Larry, that is a very, very good offer, but money I got, good horses I no got.” Another, “I know you going to think I am crazy for turning down that kind of offer but money can rarely buy this kind of horse. I know I’ve tried”,
    “Make me will take an offer I can’t refuse”. When I called back and doubled the offer, “Thank you very much but that’s still an offer I can refuse”.

    Unfortunately those of us who make a living in the business can not afford to turn down big money. Which is why you will rarely see the “little guy/gal” with a horse in the Derby.

    A couple of years ago we bred and sold a Derby prospect. Broke his maiden in early February at Gulfstream in a very serious way against a quality field having just missed in NY at 2. He became a “talking horse”, made the Vegas future book, something like 45 articles written about him, etc. Well, we still owned the mare who was in foal to an average stallion. I received a substantial offer for her and said I would get back. Soon after I was offered twice as much from someone else but contingent on the colt winning his next race. Well, I have been around enough good horses over the years that the odds of a horse that broke his maiden with that kind of form the odds of not being able to handle first level allowance were slim to none. So I went for the bird in the bush.

    He ran 4th. Never won again other then claiming. Was a poor 3rd in a Grade 3 so he did help the mare‘s, that we still owned, pedigree. The owner turned down $3 million I was told.

    I have often been reminded over the years of some very wise advise given to me by Horatio Luro when I was just starting out and wining about a horse I undersold.
    “Larry, it is better to be sorry you sold the horse then to be sorry for not selling the horse”

  • Tappyy

    As someone who considers a few million dollars (let alone 8 million) the score of a lifetime, let me be the first to say that if this dude turns down these offers in favor of retaining him I won’t be the only one grinning if things don’t work out perfectly for them.

    Best of luck (but not really).

    • greg

      Tappyy…those offers only exist in this windbags dreams, he was offered $1.5mm for all of the horse, that $1mm for 1/2 the horse, he said NO to both, he does not want to sell, he wants airtime

  • Craig

    You can’t have it both ways…you either sell all or keep him…this horse would have to finish in top 3 in his next race for him to even run in the derby…he is a speed horse that basically beat trash his first two races…honor code was returning from a layoff & was an average 2 yr old at best…nobody is going to pay millions of dollars for a horse and not have total control of who trains it and where it runs, sorry it’s time to come back into the real world and stop living on fantasy island

  • jackh

    must be nice to be able to turn down that much money. I have one “with points”, they can buy him for a million…

  • greg

    I was messaged by bloodstock agent Mersad Metanovic on Wed. telling me a deal was done, obviously he was mistaken, even though HE said he did the deal. Whatever chance for a sale there MAY have been this moron owner blew it, working the horse 2x while a “deal” was pending, NOT saying HE would decide if the next out was the Fla Derby or WOOD!! if I’m paying a large amount for part of a horse I will have some input, heard the owner speak on HRTV, he looked and sounded like the gardener at Gulfstream much more than the owner. My gut, there may have been some offers but not much $$. Horse won against Honor Code after HC had a LONG layoff, he was ONLY speed, and was a sprinter stretching out which always carries speed the 1st time. He has NO chance in any graded race unless he’s ONLY speed again, not worth much if that’s the goal

  • Knowitall

    I think Zayat/Winstar is pursuing, but waiting out the crazy owner.

  • FYI, the Green Monkey broke his neck after his famed paper sell of 16Mil according to sources close to the horse, he almost died, and it was a miracle he made it to the track. The price tag attached sometime isn’t reality, which is another issue altogether, but when you do make reference to The Green Monkey, he did overcome something most of us and equine individuals don’t overcome alone survive it.

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