Good Friends Stable’s multiple grade I winner Private Zone will get some R&R at The Sanctuary Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation Center near Ocala, Fla., before commencing a 2016 campaign, Rene Douglas said Dec. 1.
According to the co-owner and racing manager, 6-year-old Private Zone shipped Dec. 1 to The Sanctuary, a world-class facility equipped with state-of-the-art treatments including a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, equine swimming pool, vibration plate, and electromagnetic pulse therapy.
After running second by three-quarters of a length to Runhappy in the Oct. 31 TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I), the Macho Uno gelding faded to a tired fifth of six in an oddly run edition of the Nov. 28 Cigar Mile (gr. I). It was his first start for Brian Lynch after just two weeks in the new trainer’s barn, and he had aborted a planned breeze leading up to the race.
“I blame myself, I don’t blame the jockey or the trainer—that’s got nothing to do with it,” Douglas said. “I really feel guilty because he gives us everything he’s got every time he steps on the racetrack. I know when the horse is not doing well, and me making that decision to race that day, I feel bad about it.
“The horse was tired after the Breeders’ Cup and he only went into the race with four or five days of galloping. There’s no way you’re going to win a race like that, I don’t care how good you are. You’re not going to beat those kind of horses that way.
“Brian only had a little time around him (before the Cigar Mile), and he’s a horse you need to get to know, and he didn’t have enough chance to get ready heading into the Cigar Mile. We never had a chance to work him, because obviously he didn’t want to do it the day it was planned, and at that point I should have made a decision not to go. I just should have said, ‘No.’ ”
Douglas said Private Zone, who this year won the Priority One Jets Forego Stakes (gr. I), the Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes (gr. III), and the Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II) in seven starts, came out of the Cigar Mile without major issues. At multiple points in the race, regular rider Martin Pedroza took back on the plucky bay, and also looked down over his left shoulder at Private Zone’s left hind leg several times.
“He came out good,” Douglas said. “He has little 6-year-old issues, nothing serious, just wear and tear. I know a lot of people criticized Martin for taking ahold of him. I prefer he would have let him go a little bit, but in my eyes the result also would have been the same no matter how he rode him. He ran six furlongs and then he got tired. He wasn’t ready for that race.”
Last year, after capping his four-race season with a Cigar Mile victory following a third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Private Zone wintered at Gold Mark Farm. His 2014 resume included a Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) win for the second season in a row.
“We want to move on, turn the page, and just go forward,” Douglas said. “I want to bring him back to Florida and give him all the treatment he deserves. The Sanctuary seems like a nice place and he can go to the hyperbaric chamber at least two times each week. I guarantee everyone will see a new Private Zone next year.”
Private Zone traveled to Dubai in 2013 for a crack at the Dubai Golden Shaheen Sponsored by Gulf News (UAE-I), in which he finished ninth. For next year his connections are mulling a return.
“I usually give him 90 days (off in the winter), but I have to talk to Brian,” Douglas said. “We haven’t discussed it all yet. If we want to make Dubai, then I can’t give him three months off, since the race is in March. If we don’t go to Dubai, my intent is to give him three months off.
“I think the idea is good, as long as he’s good, but I haven’t decided what I’m doing yet. It’s early. I just want him to be happy for now and rest.”