California shipper Private Zone fought back gamely in deep stretch to turn back Justin Phillip to win the Vosburgh Invitational (G1) at Belmont Park on Sept. 28.
Second choice in a field of seven, Private Zone had to survive a stewards’ inquiry and ran six furlongs on a fast main track in 1:08.02 for his second straight win and just his third in the last 15 starts.
Trained by Doug O’Neill for Good Friends Stable, Private Zone paid $9.20 for a $2 win bet and earned $240,000, pushing his career bankroll to $513,820 in 19 races.
“This horse has a tendency to do [wait on the lead], and it’s a credit to [jockey] Martin Pedroza for knowing the horse,” said O’Neill’s assistant, Jack Sisterson. “Just the way he was traveling, it looked like he could have opened up because he had a lot of horse. Justin Phillip came and headed him and then passed him, and he dug down deep and got the win.”
Pedroza, riding at Belmont Park for the first time since finishing second with Miss Iron Smoke in the 1991 Grade 1 Matron, and Private Zone had to wait for an inquiry into the stretch run before the race was declared official.
“Watching it live, I didn’t see anything and Martin didn’t mention anything coming back,” Sisterson said. “I didn’t think that anything was too dramatic to take the horse down.”
“I got off to a good, clean start, and that’s what I was concerned about,” said Pedroza. “He’s very fast, and we just waited for the competition. When I let him run, he gave me everything he had.”
Velazquez felt the contact down the lane made a difference in the finish.
“I think it was enough to beat me by a head,” said Velazquez. “When he touched my horse the first time, he lost his balance. The second time, he knocked him completely off balance. Otherwise, I thought he ran a great race.”
The Vosburgh was just the fourth start of the year for Private Zone and second since finishing ninth in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 30. In his return, he captured the Pirates Bounty stakes at Del Mar on September 4, in similar front-running fashion.