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Horse's panic attacks may force him out of Belmont Stakes

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While Social Inclusion certainly his the talent to compete in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, chances are he will be withdrawn due to anxiety issues that could only cause him more distress when being loaded into the gate directly in front of the stands, where more than 100,000 people are expected. Instead, owner Ron Sanchez is considering entering him in the 7-furlong Woody Stephens Stakes, which begins on the backstretch, away from the crowd, or even wait for the Haskell at Monmouth on July 27th.

Concern for the colt’s mental state came while he was being schooled at the gate yesterday morning when he began to get overly nervous and sweaty, behavior that greatly disturbed Sanchez,and 85-year old trainer Manny Azpurua despite the fact that they have seen him get this way before, including at the Preakness where he became extremely lathered up and nearly flipped under jockey Luis Contreras* after being loaded in the gate. Yet, despite the panic attack at Pimlico, he held on to come in third 6-1/2 lengths behind California Chrome after pressuring him to make his move an eight of a mile sooner than jockey Victor Espinoza would have liked.

Although considered to be one of the fastest 3-years this year, having clocked 3 furlongs in just 38.48 seconds the other day, a workout time rarely approached by thoroughbreds, Sanchez is not willing to risk his colt’s safety or well-being, and stated that if he is unable to settle down in the gate within the next couple of tries he would be forced to forgo the Belmont. And even if he failed to make the decision himself, it was noted that the Stewards could rule against his being allowed to compete in the race.

*Contreras has since been replaced as Social Inclusion’s rider by Irad Ortiz Jr.

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