Cigar Mile Attracts Quality Runners at Many Distances

by Greg Melikov

posted on November 24, 2009 in General Discussion, Other Events | No Comments >>

The Cigar Mile, named for the top money-winning thoroughbred for a decade, has attracted several contenders that raced at the distance only once.

Well, Cigar ran a mile on the dirt only twice in his 33-race career, both times at Aqueduct where the Grade 1 has been held except for 1993 since debuting in ’88 as the NYRA Mile. He won by seven lengths on Nov. 26, 1994, a month after taking an allowance race by eight lengths.

Those two victories were the start of a 16-race winning streak that equaled Citation’s modern-day North American record. The son of Palace Music retired in ’96 with earnings of $9,999, 813. When Curlin retired in ’08, his earnings topped $10.5 million.

The main combatants have raced at distances from six furlongs to 1 1/4 miles.

Vineyard Haven and Kodiak Kowboy, top contenders in Saturday’s renewal, have finished first and fifth respectively in their only outings on American tracks at a mile. Kodiak Kowboy won last time out in six-furlong Vosburgh.

Three-year-old Vineyard Haven, seeking his third straight win, defeated Munnings by 5 3/4 lengths last fall in Belmont’s Champagne Stakes.

Trainer Todd Pletcher, gunning for a record four triumphs, will send out Munnings and Quality Road, who won the ’09 Fountain of Youth Stakes at eight furlongs at Gulfstream Park.

“I think Munnings gets a mile, no problem,” Pletcher told If you look back at his Haskell at a mile and an eighth (on a sloppy surface at Monmouth), he was right there at the eighth pole, and was just beaten by Summer Bird. Obviously, Rachel Alexandra was an impressive winner, but I felt he held his own pretty well.”

The son of Speightstown also ran third in a pair of sprint stakes in the slop since August: the Vosburgh at Belmont and the King’s Bishop at Saratoga.

Meanwhile, Quality Road went through extensive schooling at Aqueduct without incident, Pletcher said, and breezed a half-mile in 50 4/5 last Saturday. The son of Elusive Quality “worked well and he came out of it well,” he said.

Quality Road was scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic after acting up while being loaded into the gate. He hasn’t raced since Oct. 3 when he finished second to Summer Bird in the 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup in the slop at Belmont.

Only Congaree won back-to-back races in ’04 and ’05, giving trainer Bob Baffert his second and third scores. The best time was recorded in ’06 by Discreet Cat: 1:32 2/5.

Other contenders in the 19th Cigar Mile are:

Pyro – The 4-year-old son of Pulpit last won the Forego at seven furlongs, but only finished second in three trips at eight furlongs.

Tizway – He is 2-1-0 of 4 at a mile, including an Aqueduct allowance race victory back in April. The 4-year-old son of double BC Classic Tiznow finished third in the Gold Cup.

Bribon – The 6-year-old as the most experience at the distance: 6-2-1 in 14 outings. The French-bred is 2 for 3 at Aqueduct, finishing third in last year’s Cigar Mile.