09/28/2013 4:28PM

Vosburgh: Private Zone by a neck over Justin Phillip

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Tom Keyser
Private Zone (right), ridden by Martin Pedroza, beats Justin Phillip by a neck in the Vosburgh Invitational on Saturday.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Private Zone, a Canadian-bred who began his career in Panama and set the early pace in the Dubai Golden Shaheen earlier this year, continued his jet-setting ways, winning Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Vosburgh Invitational in stakes-record time off the plane from California.

It didn’t come easily. The Doug O’Neill-trained speedster had to put away Forego winner Strapping Groom down the backstretch and needed to run an opening half-mile in 44.86 seconds to open a clear lead around the turn beneath Martin Pedroza.

Private Zone ($9.20) was set upon by 5-2 favorite Justin Phillip at the eighth pole after five furlongs in 56.25 and lost the lead along the rail in deep stretch before battling back through a jousting match to prevail by a neck.

During their struggle, Justin Phillip leaned in and brushed Private Zone, who responded by drifting out slightly for another bump near the wire. After a stewards’ inquiry and an objection by John Velazquez aboard Justin Phillip, the result was not changed.

“I got off to a good, clean start, and that’s what I was concerned about,” said Pedroza, who hadn’t ridden at Belmont since a runner-up finish on Miss Iron Smoke in the 1991 Matron. “He’s very fast, and we just waited for the competition. When I let him run, he gave me everything he had.”

Private Zone, a 4-year-old gelding by Macho Uno, ran six furlongs in 1:08.02, eclipsing the previous mark of 1:08.13 set by Henny Hughes in 2006 (the race was shortened to its current distance in 2004). The time was just 0.36 seconds off the track record set by Artax in the 1999 Forest Hills Handicap.

Private Zone won just 3 of 9 starts in Panama but has won or placed in all 6 of his starts for O’Neill in the United States. Freshened after his Dubai trip, he returned to win the restricted Pirate’s Bounty Stakes on Sept. 4.

The Vosburgh was the first graded stakes victory for Private Zone, who earned $240,000 and a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

“That’s the goal,” said O’Neill, who sent assistant trainer Jack Sisterton to accompany Private Zone to New York. “Now, we’ll have an additional week by not running next week [in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship on Oct. 5], so we’ll have five weeks to the Sprint. So much credit has to go to Rene Douglas, who manages him for Good Friends Stable. He was adamant about giving him time off after Dubai. We’re pretty pumped up!”

Justin Phillip, sixth in the Vosburgh in each of the last two years for Steve Asmussen, was clearly second-best by 4 1/2 lengths.

“He ran a bang-up race, just got knocked off balance a little bit and kind of lost his momentum,” said assistant trainer Toby Sheets. “The stewards didn’t think it was that big of a deal. We lost by a [neck]. I disagree.”

Strapping Groom held third by a half-length over Forty Tales, the lone 3-year-old in the field. The order of finish was completed by Bahamian Squall, Candyman E, and The Lumber Guy, the 2012 Vosburgh winner.

iknownothing114 More than 1 year ago
Johnny that was Martin rarely lose a photo finish pedroza just ask angel
Andy Dean More than 1 year ago
Well Toby that's racing isn't it?!? You've been in the game long enough to know what race riding is. Johnny V tried to pin Martin down towards the rail and actually drifted in and brushed Private Zone first and Martin had to go a left handed whip, otherwise he'd hit Justin Phillip if he stayed with his right hand. . He just got beat by a better horse today, that's all. Maybe next time JP will prevail. And congrats to Good Friends stable and Rene. Douglas too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rene, just want to congratulate you and your friends for a job well done. Private Zone is so intriguing! All over the race track in his initial races. But you saw his potential. I think you saw his will to win. He's a character and now, with more training, he's showing his true colors which, once again, you caught onto from the beginning. Congrats Mr. Douglas. I wish I had your eye for horses.Congrats to Doug O'Neill. Another job well done.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Horses that either wintered out West or are stabled there year round shipped East and won the Tom Fool, Met Mile, True North, Vanderbilt, and Vosburgh. Basically, the horses that Sahara Sky beat in the Palos Verdes and San Carlos have just crushed this divsion.
michael More than 1 year ago
private zone knocked hard into justin. this horse should have been taken down. i had no money in the race, my observation.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Justin Phillip was bearing down on Private Zone well before Private Zone came out. And it's not Private Zone's fault he's built like a linebacker and Justin is a light framed horse. The difference in size made the bump look worse because Private Zone is a stronger built horse, so of course Justin was going to get the worse of any mutual exchange.
Alex Cinquegrani More than 1 year ago
You are blind or don't no anything about horse racing ..sad
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Saludos Rene.
the best More than 1 year ago
no doubt the best sprinters are on the west coast
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
Martin Pedroza out-rode JV. Pedroza is a beast. He just does't get the mounts Bejarano, Maldoado, Talamo and Espinoza get. The dude won the Santa Anita Handicap with Marshal Law at 50 to 1 somewhere around 1988. Congrats to all involved with Private Zone. Smokin time too!
Walter More than 1 year ago
Pedroza is limited, but effective in certain situations. He has ridden in SoCal for so many years, I'm sure the trainers have good reasons why they choose so many other riders over him. You bet CA racing, so you prob understand what I mean
Lawrence Macselwiney More than 1 year ago
I agree. I think one of the reasons he doesn't get as many mounts is his age and he can be hard on a horse in a race. He can win under any circumstances though. I may be a little biased since I had him on his win prior to the Big Cap on Marshal Law and I had him in the Big Cap.
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
Must have been 2 bucks,hbut 102 is a nice score
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
Wasnt that a sloppy big cap if i recall? I think martial law was a son of mr leader like ruhlmannn a shocker of a big cap.sometimes big tough fields have surprizes like arcanges ,martial law,my bomb was lemondrop kid in the belmont .
Andy Dean More than 1 year ago
Pedroza is under-rated in my book. And tough as nails. For cryin' out loud, he hit the deck twice within the last two weeks or so riding @ Pomona, and was back riding the NEXT DAY! And Lawrence and Walter, the horse that won the Big Cap was named Martial Law. It was 1989 and I was in attendance. A shocker for sure! Here's a pretty neat LA times write up: http://articles.latimes.com/1989-03-06/sports/sp-108_1_martial-law
John Flynn More than 1 year ago
PEDROZA, PEDROZA, PEDROZA = GREAT!!! He is Fierce & Fabulous!!!
49ervic More than 1 year ago
Love this horse for Doug O"Neal.