09/25/2013 3:26PM

Breeders' Cup Sprint: O'Neill planning to send Private Zone, Goldencents

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Benoit & Associates
Private Zone will try to get to the Breeders' Cup Sprint via the Vosburgh.

If things go well over the next couple of weeks, trainer Doug O’Neill will have himself two starters in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Private Zone and Goldencents. O’Neill won the Sprint with Thor’s Echo in 2006.

Private Zone will be the first of O’Neill’s Sprint hopefuls to try to punch his ticket into race when he comes east for Saturday’s Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park. Private Zone won Del Mar’s Pirate’s Bounty Stakes by a neck earlier this month, his first victory since being turned over to O’Neill by the Good Friends Stable, a syndicate managed by former rider Rene Douglas. The win, under regular rider Martin Pedroza, was the first for the Canadian-bred son of Macho Uno in the U.S. and came in his first start since a ninth-place finish six months earlier in the Dubai Golden Shaheen.

“I felt he was about 90 percent cranked up for his last start and I couldn’t have been prouder about the way he ran, hanging in gamely like he did for Martin,” said O’Neill. “This is a horse who always goes out and gives a good account of himself no matter where we run him. I decided to send him to New York, not so much to keep him and Goldencents separated until the Breeders’ Cup, but because I think that’s the kind of surface he’ll really handle well.”

Goldencents has not won a race since capturing the Santa Anita Derby on April 6. But he has turned in two solid performances since shortening up to one turn and adding blinkers this summer at Del Mar. Goldencents, a 3-year-old by Into Mischief, finished second, beaten a head by Points Offthebench, in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby, and second, a length behind Fed Biz, in the seven-furlong Pat O’Brien four weeks later. He’ll make his next start a week from Saturday in the six-furlong Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship.

“Right now we could go either way with him in the Breeders’ Cup, the Sprint or Dirt Mile,” said O’Neill. “But I do believe he is definitely a Grade 1-caliber sprinter.”

O’Neill said Rafael Bejarano will be aboard Goldencents for the first time in the Santa Anita Sprint.

The Vosburgh and Santa Anita Sprint are two of three Win and You’re In races for the BC Sprint still to be decided, with the third being Keeneland’s Phoenix, which will be run on Oct. 5.

A field of eight was entered for the six-furlong Vosburgh. Along with Private Zone, it includes Bahamian Squall, who has secured a spot in the Sprint by virtue of his victory in Calder’s Win and You’re In Smile Sprint. Also entered are last year’s BC Sprint runner-up The Lumber Guy, Justin Phillip, Strapping Groom, Forty Tales, Palace, and Candyman.

Trainer Ron Moquett said earlier this week that he would pass the Vosburgh with Gentlemen’s Bet in lieu of the Phoenix. Moquett said difficulties in traveling back and forth to Belmont from his base at Churchill Downs was a major reason for staying in Kentucky for the Phoenix.

Last weekend’s two major sprint races, Parx’s Gallant Bob and Laurel’s De Francis Dash, do not figure to impact the Sprint picture. City of Weston, a 30-1 shot, upset the Gallant Bob under Paco Lopez for trainer Antonio Sano, while the 8-year-old Immortal Eyes splashed to 6 3/4-length decision in the De Francis under Travis Dunkelberger for trainer Damon Dilodovico.

– additional reporting by Marty McGee