Saturday, November 29, 2014

Private Zone rides the rail to victory in G1 Cigar Mile Handicap




Saturday, November 29, 2014

Private Zone rides the rail to victory in G1 Cigar Mile Handicap

By Sean Morris

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Stretch-out sprinter Private Zone rocketed to the front and never looked back in the Grade 1, $500,000 Cigar Mile Handicap on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack, besting a star-studded group of older horses by five lengths.

Breaking from the rail, last year's Cigar Mile runner-up took full advantage of a racetrack that had been kind to inside speed. The 5-year-old gelding, ridden by Martin Pedroza, launched to the front and set a rapid pace of 22.18 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 44.18 for the half while hugging the fence.

Private Zone showed no signs of fatigue after three-quarters in a grueling 1:08.34, and continued his charge along the rail into the stretch, sailing home to complete the mile in 1:34.39.

"The fractions didn't bother me because he was doing it easy," said winning trainer Alfredo Velazquez, who trains Private Zone for Good Friends Stable. "When I saw :44 [for the half], I said, 'They're going to have to come and get it.' [The break] was very important because of the track. Everything inside today was running."

Private Zone, a son of Macho Uno virtually mirrored his race in the Cigar Mile from a year ago, in which he set a lively pace but succumbed late to Flat Out, save one important detail - he held on to win. The victory came as no surprise to Velazquez, who took over training duties for the speedy gelding in September.

"He was great," said the Pennsylvania-based trainer. "That was the way I was expecting him to run because he was training super. I worked him here the other day and it was [the slowest] track I have ever seen, and he worked 1:01 and 4/5 [seconds]."

Private Zone, who returned $11.60 on a $2 win wager, was one of three horses who entered the Cigar Mile off a top-four finish in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint, in which he finished third.

A back-to-back winner of the Grade 1 Vosburgh Invitational at Belmont Park, Private Zone was eligible for a New York Racing Association purse incentive available to any previous Grade 1 winner, making his Cigar Mile triumph worth $450,000. His career bankroll now stands at just over $1.5 million.

Secret Circle, who was sent off as the 5-2 favorite, held on to finish second for trainer Bob Baffert, a neck in front of Bourbon Courage. Secret Circle and Bourbon Courage finished second and fourth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, respectively.

"He ran great," said Joel Rosario, jockey aboard Secret Circle. "When I came out of the gate, he kind of stumbled a little bit, but he recovered really quickly. He does everything so easily. I can't believe the horse on the lead just kept on going. I was trying to track him and stay with him, but he was in command the whole way."

Salty New York-bred Big Business finished fourth, 1 ½ lengths in front of Grade 2 Kelso Handicap winner Vyjack. Noble Moon, Regally Ready, Transparent and Itsmyluckyday rounded out the order of finish.








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