Private Zone, scratched from the June 10 True North Stakes (gr. II) in New York due to trainer Brian Lynch's positive drug test for marijuana, will finally get the chance to make his season debut in the $400,000 Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes (gr. III) July 9 at Belmont Park—a race he won in 2015.
The 7-year-old Macho Uno gelding heads a group of nine entered for the seven-furlong test, with Lynch reinstated as the trainer of record. He is the 124-pound highweight, and leaves post 2 with Martin Pedroza in the irons.
Private Zone was last seen racing for Good Friends Stable in his debut for Lynch Nov. 28, when he ran fifth in the Cigar Mile (gr. I) at Aqueduct Racetrack. That finish came after a runner-up effort by three-quarters of a length to eventual champion Runhappy in the TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I), when he was still conditioned by Jorge Navarro. His last win came in the Aug. 29 Priority One Jets Forego Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course.
The Cigar Mile, which Private Zone won in 2014, was the only off-the-board finish for the plucky bay last year. He was second in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) in March to start his season, won the Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II) in May, was third in the NYRA.com Metropolitan Mile Handicap (gr. I) in June, and brought home back-to-back victories in the Belmont Sprint and Forego before he ran second in his third Breeders' Cup appearance. He was third in 2014 and 10th in 2013.
In this year's edition of the Belmont Sprint, Private Zone will meet Joking, who won the six-furlong True North while building a three-race win streak. He'll also face Anchor Down , who ran second to Frosted —albeit by 14 1/4 lengths—in the Met Mile last out.
Marking was fourth in the Met, and comes back here in his second start after spending the early part of the season in Dubai. Ready for Rye returns to dirt after running third in the Jaipur (gr. IIIT) June 11, while Green Gratto must rebound from an 11th in that event.