In 2008, the 7-year-old finished third to Tale of Ekati. Last year, he was runner-up to Kodiak Kowboy losing by a head.
Bribon, with six victories at a mile on the dirt, has won more times than the main contenders combined. But he hasn’t scored at the distance since the Metropolitan Handicap last year on May 25 at Belmont Park.
He’s coming off a victory in the seven-furlong Bold Ruler on Oct. 30 at Belmont and is 2-1-1 in four outings at Aqueduct.
“He’s an interesting horse,” said Todd Pletcher, who took over this year as trainer. “He’s bred to be a turf route horse, but is at his best sprinting on the dirt. He’s a really cool horse to be around, with a great personality. He’s got a big heart, loves the game, tries hard, and is talented to go along with it.”
The horse that has banked more than $1.1 million recorded three of his 16 wins on the grass.
Two main contenders are aiming to improve on their poor performances in this month’s Breeders’ Cup races.
Girolamo, 11th in the BC Sprint at six furlongs, won two times at a mile last year at Belmont. Vineyard Haven, sixth in the BC Dirt Mile, has a victory at the distance, but that was in ’08 as a juvenile.
Rick Mettee, assistant to Godolphin Racing’s trainer Saeed bin Suroor, said both horses were compromised in those BC efforts at Churchill Downs.
“Girolamo got an inside draw in a big field, and I don’t think he is the kind of horse who is sharp enough to stalk a 44-and-change pace,” he said. “I think he has 45-and-change speed. Hopefully, the mile will suit him a little better.”
“Vineyard Haven was drawn outside and stalked a very fast pace. It looked like for a brief second he’d be there turning for home, but then he faded a little bit. (Morning Line) was able to hang in there and finish second, but everybody else faltered in the last furlong.”
“It looks like, on paper, that there isn’t a tremendous amount of speed going in the Cigar Mile, and he’s another one who should pull a better trip.”
The $250,000 Grade 1 was renamed in ’97 for the two-time Horse of the Year that captured the race three years earlier when it was run as the NYRA Mile.
Cigar ran a mile on dirt only twice, both times at Aqueduct, where he won by seven lengths a month after capturing an allowance contest by eight lengths.
Those two victories were the start of a 16-race winning streak that equaled ’48 Triple Crown champ Citation’s modern-day North American record, which stood up until recent years. Cigar retired in ’96 after banking a record $9,999,813 that stood until Curlin ended his career in ’08 with earnings exceeding $10.5 million.