In Saturday's seven-furlong race that featured the 2015 debut of last year's Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Bayern , Good Friends Stable's Private Zone and jockey Martin Pedroza stole the show. After completing early fractions of :22.38 and :44.64, Private Zone held off a stretch run from longshot Nates Mineshaft, who tracked throughout and actually edged to the lead in early stretch, to secure the 4 1/4-length win.
"This is my first win on Derby Day; my first win at Churchill," said the Southern California-based Pedroza. "I am so happy to win this race for my good friend Renee Douglas (the owners' stable manager). I am blessed that I am healthy and doing well and I can win a race like this for him.
"I'm 48 but I feel like I'm 21. This is some horse. He is so good."
Bayern struggled to gain a comfortable position and never threatened. Grade II winner Nate's Mineshaft just held second over a closing Pants On Fire, a two-time grade II winner.
Private Zone completed the seven-furlong race in 1:22.54 and returned $7.40 to win, $4.40, and $3. Windy Hill Farm's veteran campaigner Nates Mineshaft returned $19.80 to place and $6.20 to show. George and Lori Hall's Pants On Fire returned $2.80 to show.
Trained by Jorge Navarro, Private Zone opened the season with a runner-up finish to Honor Code in the one-turn mile Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) March 7. Private Zone, a now 6-year-old son of Macho Uno , closed last season with his second career grade I win in the Cigar Mile Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack.
"He's been training really well coming into this race," Navarro said. "I knew when the other horse came, he would dig in. He's a fighter."
Martin Garcia, aboard Bayern, said his horse was through early.
"He didn't have the kick that he usually does," Garcia said. "He was done at the half-mile. He didn't handle the track at all; he didn't like it."
Out of the Siphon mare Auburn Beauty, Private Zone was bred in Ontario by Adena Springs.