Martin Pedroza and Rene Douglas have been friends for more than three
decades. Natives of Panama, they attended jockey school there before
migrating to the United States where they reached the upper echelon of
Douglas, a regular in Southern California before returning to
the Chicago area where he was a six-time champion at Arlington Park, was
paralyzed from the waist down in a tragic spill at that track on May
Throughout his travails, Douglas maintained contact with
Pedroza, who buoyed his spirits during bouts of depression, which
diminished with time to the point that now Douglas is racing manager for
the Good Friends Stable, which has Private Zone entered in the Grade I
Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on opening day next Wednesday. The rider:
“Rene and Martin not only grew up together, they went to jockey
school in Panama,” said Pedroza’s long-time agent, Richie Silverstein.
“They’ve remained best friends and Rene suggested to Doug (O’Neill, who
trains Private Zone) that because of his relationship with Martin, he’d
like to keep him on the horse.”
Pedroza has ridden Private Zone in four of the gelding’s five
U.S. starts, finishing second the last two, beaten only a length last
out in the Grade III Vernon Underwood at Betfair Hollywood Park on Dec.
Douglas’ recovery has understandably been a work in progress.
“The first year and a half, he wouldn’t take phone calls,
seemingly because he was depressed,” Silverstein said. “Now when I speak
to him on the phone in Florida he seems in very good spirits. I know he
goes to physical therapy every Saturday, but all in all, he’s sharp
mentally and he knows his stuff.”
Added Pedroza: “It was rough in the beginning, but now I talk to him pretty much every day.”
As for Private Zone, who set the pace in his last two starts
before he was overtaken in late stretch, Pedroza is optimistic, even
though personally he’s coming off a forgettable Betfair Hollywood Park
meet where he won only once from 68 mounts. He needs just one more
victory to reach career milestone 3,500.
But right now, Pedroza’s focused on Private Zone. “I think he’s going to be all right,” Pedroza said.
The field for the Malibu, race eight of nine: Fed Biz, Mike
Smith; Jimmy Creed, Garrett Gomez; Drill, Martin Garcia; The Lumber Guy,
John Velazquez; Politicallycorrect, Joel Rosario; Basmati, Mario
Gutierrez; Castaway, Joe Talamo; Private Zone, Pedroza; Guilt Trip,
Rafael Bejarano; and Unbridled’s Note, Corey Nakatani.
Fed Biz worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track
Friday in 58 flat, while Drill went six furlongs in a bullet 1:10.20
handily from the gate, both for Bob Baffert. Drill’s time was the
fastest of 32 at the distance, the average time of which was 1:14.25.
Politicallycorrect worked five furlongs for Wesley Ward in 1:01.20.