Private Zone comes back to win G1 Vosburgh Invitational
By Phil Janack | 09/28/2013 06:47 PM ET
Passed by favored Justin Phillip with less than 50 yards to run, California shipper Private Zone fought back on the inside and survived a stewards' inquiry into the finish to win the Grade 1, $400,000 Vosburgh Invitational by a neck on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Second choice in a field of seven, Private Zone 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."
Breaking from the far outside, Private Zone sprung quickly from the gate and Pedroza was able to get the 4-year-old Macho Uno gelding to the inside and into a comfortable rhythm up front, leading through a rapid quarter-mile in 22.62 seconds and a half in 44.86.
Justin Phillip and Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez rated in midpack before moving up on the leaders around the turn, and steadily gained on Private Zone in the stretch, sticking a neck in front. Pedroza was able to find another gear and Private Zone surged back to retake the lead and hit the wire in front.
"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, who guided Justin Phillip to win the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga Race Course last month, 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.
"When he broke from the gate, I liked the way Martin took him over and got him to the inside," Sisterson said. "This horse has got natural speed. I wasn't too worried about the fractions. I know he can keep that speed over the six furlongs."
Justin Phillip, favored at 5-2, was a clear second, finishing 4 ½ lengths ahead of another Grade 1 winner, Strapping Groom. Forty Tales, Bahamian Squall, Candyman E and defending Vosburgh champion The Lumber Guy completed the order of finish. Palace was scratched.