01/06/2016 1:00AM

2015 Eclipse Awards: Private Zone


In his fifth year of competition, Private Zone had arguably his best campaign, winning more races and earning more money than ever before. His accomplishments have made him an Eclipse Award finalist in the male sprinter category for the second consecutive season.

Owned by the Good Friends Stable, which is managed by former rider Rene Douglas, Private Zone went 3 for 7 as a 6-year-old and earned more than $1.3 million. His victories came in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga, the Grade 3 Belmont Park Sprint Championship, and the Grade 2 Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.

Three of his four losses came at a mile – the Cigar Mile, Met Mile, and Gulfstream Park Handicap. His other defeat came in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, where a relentless Runhappy wore him down in deep stretch to win by three-quarters of a length in track-record time.

“He had an amazing year,” Douglas said. “He was better than in 2014. Unfortunately, he came really close to winning the Breeders’ Cup but finished second. That would have really been something.”

Private Zone’s 3 3/4-length victory in the Forego was especially meaningful to Douglas.

“It is a race I have always wanted to win,” Douglas said. “The year before, it was the same with the Cigar. I have always wanted to win both of those races.”

Private Zone is a gelded son of Macho Uno and the Siphon mare Auburn Beauty, who was bred in Canada by Adena Springs. He was racing in Panama when discovered by Douglas. After his brother, Rogelio, inspected the then-3-year-old, Douglas purchased him for $80,000 and spent an additional $20,000 to bring him to the United States. At the time, Private Zone had won 2 of 9 starts and $47,000. He now is 10 for 32 with $2.9 million in earnings.

Private Zone was trained by Jorge Navarro in 2015 but was transferred to Brian Lynch for his final start, a third-place finish in the Cigar Mile.

Since being imported to the U.S., Private Zone also has been trained by Doug O’Neill and Alfredo Velazquez. Douglas said the trainer changes were the result of outside circumstances and not because he was unhappy with the individuals involved.

“I am a very loyal person and have stuck with my good friend Martin Pedroza on this horse from the beginning,” Douglas said. “This horse has mental issues, and Doug did an amazing job with him, but he was having suspension and licensing problems. Alfredo, who has been a father figure to me since I came to this country, had the option to train Private Zone in Florida last winter but chose to stay in Philadelphia with his other horses. Jorge and I did have a difference of opinion at the end of the year, but he is an excellent trainer.”

Private Zone is being freshened at the Sanctuary Equine Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation Center in Ocala, Fla.

“This horse has been nothing but joy and happiness,” Douglas said. “Hopefully, we will see the same Private Zone again in 2016.”