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 for the half while hugging the fence.
Private Zone showed no signs of fatigue after three-quarters in a grueling, 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.
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.
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.
(Sean Morris) Sloppy track for Fall Heavyweight
Favored Salutos Amigos relished the sloppy going at Aqueduct Racetrack last week, rallying from far back to capture the 101st running of the Grade 3, $300,000 Fall Highweight Handicap, the Thanksgiving Day feature at the Big A.
Lugging high weight of 133 pounds, including jockey Cornelio Velasquez, Salutos Amigos was content to linger towards the back of the pack as Weekend Hideaway and La Verdad led through an opening half.
Angled to the outside with a furlong to go, the 4-year-old Salute the Sarge gelding kicked into high gear and swept to the lead, hitting the wire in 1:10.78 for the six furlongs.
“He likes to be covered up and behind horses,” said Velasquez.
The victory was the fifth in 13 starts this year for Salutos Amigos, who is owned in partnership by Southern Equine Stables and trainer David Jacobson. Overall, he is 6-2-4 from 24 career starts, and has now earned $627,406.
“I wasn’t concerned about the wet track because he was 3-for-3 in the mud going into this,” said Jacobson.
Salutos Amigos notched his second graded stakes of the year, having taken the Grade 3 Bold Ruler on October 25. Following that, he was seventh in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 1.
“We’ll take a look at the Gravesend [December 26] next, but it’s up to the horse to let us know,” said Jacobson. “He might want to run back on seven days rest again, or not. We’ll see.”
(Jenny Kellner) Looking Ahead
This weekend at the Big A features only one stakes race, the 21st running of the Garland of Roses on Saturday, December 6. The race carries a $100,000 purse.
This weekend also features the Stocking Stuffer holiday promotion on both Saturday and Sunday, where you can pick up great gifts for the racing fan on your gift list.