Martin Pedroza’s Breeders’ Cup mounts have been as scarce as rain in Southern California.
The 48-year-old jockey has only ridden in the World Championship event five times in its 29-year history. He is still looking for his first win.
In 1986 he was eighth on Silk’s Lady in the Juvenile Fillies; in 1991 he finished 12th aboard Miss Iron Smoke, also in the Juvenile Fillies; in 2008 he was third on Two Step Salsa in the Dirt Mile; in 2012, he ran sixth on Nonios in the Classic and 11th aboard Stormy Lucy in the Filly & Mare Turf.
That void on his resume of more than 3,500 career victories could end next Saturday when Pedroza rides Private Zone in the $1.5 million Xpressbet Breeders’ Cup Sprint at six furlongs.
It couldn’t come at a more appropriate time. Private Zone is managed for the Good Friends Stable by former jockey Rene Douglas. Douglas and Pedroza attended the same riding school in their native Panama and have been close friends since their early teens.
Douglas was paralyzed from the waist down in a riding accident at Arlington Park in 2009. While Pedroza remains in touch with Douglas almost daily, for the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita next Friday and Saturday, they will meet in person for first time since last March, when Private Zone ran in the Golden Shaheen in Dubai.
“I’m very excited to see my best friend,” said Pedroza, who expects Douglas to arrive in California next Wednesday from Florida. “I can’t wait.”
Private Zone had his final major drill for the Sprint Friday morning, going five furlongs with Pedroza up in 1:01.80. “The horse was full of energy,” said trainer Doug O’Neill, who sent several other Breeders’ Cup hopefuls through their final major drills. “The work was nice and easy. He left the track with a lot left in him, so he’s doing great.”
Private Zone gives Pedroza his best chance to register his first Breeders’ Cup victory in a riding career that began in 1982.
“I’ve got a helluva chance to win,” Pedroza said unequivocally. “If I’ve ever had a chance, it’s with this horse. I really do like my chances. The horse is getting better and better. The little time off they gave him after the Dubai race seems like it’s made him a different horse.”
As for the personal drought, Pedroza’s long-time agent Richie Silverstein agrees with his rider that this is the best chance they’ve had to end it.
“Naturally, when the Breeders’ Cup was at Santa Anita or Hollywood, we’ve had better chances for mounts than when it was back East,” Silverstein said. “Sometimes local jockeys pick up horses they’d never have a chance to ride at other tracks.
“But Private Zone has to be by far the best chance Marty’s had, if we get lucky. We have another good one in Blueskiesnrainbows in the ($500,000) Marathon (at 1 3/4 miles) for Jerry Hollendorfer. The horse got beat at Fresno so he’s going to be way overlooked, but this is what the horse wants to do.”
Blueskiesnrainbows was fifth as the 7-10 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Bull Dog Handicap at Fresno on Oct. 13 with Leslie Mawing up. Prior to that, Pedroza rode the Virginia-bred son of English Channel to a four-length romp in the $100,000 Ralph M. Hinds at Fairplex on Sept. 22.
“We just hope the posts are good for our two horses and the stars line up right,” Silverstein said.