This weekend marks the 26th running of the Grade 1 Cigar Mile. The race is bittersweet for NY racing because it is the last Grade 1 race run in the year, yet it always seams to draw a great field. Last year NYRA literally raised the stakes for the race by adding on a stipulation that would reward an additional $500,000 to any Breeders’ Cup winner that would take down the Mile. This added incentive lead to a deeply talented 10-horse field. Unfortunately, this year there were no Breeders’ Cup winners entered. Nevertheless the race did draw a contentious nine-horse field. With a post time of 4:17 PM, The Cigar Mile is scheduled as the 10th and last race of the day for Saturday, November 29th.
The Cigar Mile also caps off a late pick four at Aqueduct that features three stakes races. In addition to the ‘Mile’, those races are the G2 Demoiselle, for two-year-old fillies and mares, and the Grade 2 Remsen, for two-year-old colts.
The pick four-sequence starts with a $77K Allowance race, run at 6 ½ furlongs. It’s an interesting race that features Pulling G’s (1), a late blooming four-year-old son of Curlin, trained by John Sherriffs. The morning line favorite will see if he can take his early speed all the way against non-maidens. Coming out of the 1 post is a big advantage for him, especially this time of year when the track is hardened from the colder temperatures.
If Puling G’s out sprints them out of the gate the race may be over before they get to the quarter pole. However if he gets some competition from the seven-horse, Waco (3-1), a three-year-old who also has shown early speed it can set up for some interesting prices to hit the board.
The 3 horse, Joking (8-1) and the 8 horse, Memories (12-1) are both tenacious closers who will make sure the 1 horse runs every bit of the 6 ½ furlong race.
Top Pick (3) Joking
Pick Four Picks: 3, 1, 8
Angela Renee has a class edge. Has run in three Grade 1 races in a row and won the Chandelier Stakes which set her up as a lukewarm favorite for the Breeders’ Cup. She didn’t run well as the 3-1 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile fillies, but am willing to through that race out. The Pletcher/Velazquez connection is more than capable of bouncing back in this scenario.
Jacaranda – To her immediate outside is Jacaranda who is 2 for 2. Last win was an impressive draw off victory at Aqueduct in the G3 Tempted Stakes.
Gap Year – Three wildcards will vie for value on the betting board in this race. The first is Gap Year (4-1) Owned by the fames Godolphin Stables Gap Year is from the Bernardini sire line with her dam being Dubai Escape from the Awesome Again line. Connections thought enough of her 3rd place MSW finish back in August that they went right into the Grade 1 Alchibiadies at Keenland.
Condo Commando – Two big wins at Saratoga put her on the radar in August. The Rudy Rodriquez trained filly gets top jock Joel Rosario in the irons. Condo Commando’s distance limitations will be put to the test tomorrow as her connection will see if she can get 1 mile and 1/8th. Two impressive victories had her winning by a combined 25 1/4th lengths. However downstate she fell short as the 4/5 favorites in the Grade 1 Frizette.
Quezon – the other wildcard in this race is the NY bred Quezon, who is also undefeated. Her perfect record however comes solely against state bred competition and she will step up to face a big test on Saturday.
Top Pick – (5) Gap Year
Pick Four Picks – 7, 8, 3, 5, 6,
Perhaps even more wide open than the Demoiselle, The Remsen features 14 entries with two as a coupled entry. This race is interesting for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that the top three horses all drew far outside posts. The configuration of the Aqueduct racetrack is that the race begins with very little running room to the first turn. Therefore the top three horses in this race will be at a tremendous disadvantage from the gate.
Classy Class – If all goes well trainer Kieran McLaughlin will have a very good day. Along with Gap Year, he also has Classy Class, who looked impressive in winning a 6 ½ furlong MSW back in October at Belmont. The son of Discreetly Mine drew off impressively to win by four lengths on that day. The colt has had some nice workouts and should not have problems stretching out in distance.
Frosted – McLaughlin will also have another promising entry coming out of the 12 post. The Darley bred colt is from the Tapit breeding line. Tapit is coming off a very successful year as a sire. Despite needing three races to break his maiden Frosted ran respectable in all three of those races. Saturday, he will be getting Lasix for the first time, a stat that McLaughlin wins at 30% with.
Ostrolenka – The third logical choice to start on the outside is Ostrolenka (11). In three lifetime starts the New York bred son of Musket Man is two for three, with a win in Sleepy Hill Stakes at Belmont Park in October. Ostrolenka has shown speed out of the gate, which may give him a tactical advantage. Ostrolenka is entered as the 4-1 third choice in the morning line.
Eh Cumpari – There are possible long shots that can take advantage of the outside horses’ early run to the first turn. In his first and only lifetime race, Eh Cumpari won at 45-1. It wasn’t so much that he won first time out at such a huge price that was impressive; it was how he did it. The son of Elusive Quality trailed ten other horses for the majority of the race. When they hit the turn for home jockey Channing Hill was forced to make a nine wide move, losing all kinds of ground in the process. As they straightened for home a determined Eh Cumpari found his best stride, winning by a little more than three lengths. If the outside horses are compromised by having to get position early, then the pace will be faster than expected. This should set up nicely for Eh Cumpari who should improve off his last race.
Top Pick – 7 El Cumpari
Pick Four Picks – 7, 10, 11, 12
The 26th running of the Cigar Mile features nine horses, of those nine there are three logical contenders. I’m going to make a case against two of them use one with some other prices. The first one is Itmyluckyday (2), who has had an excellent year coming off an injury. Itsmyluckyday has the feel of a horse that runs best in two-turn races. This is a horse that has run very similarly to his sire Lawyer Ron, who was best at 1 1/8th. In the 2007 Met Mile, Lawyer Ron was a heavy 3/5 favorite who got out run in that one-turn race to the flashy Corinthian. Additionally Itsmyluckyday has run some good speed figures this year that should cause him to go off at a shorter price than his morning line odds of 5-1.
The other horse I will try to beat is the favorite Secret Circle. Since coming off a long layoff toward the end of 2013 Secret Circle has run in five races. Of those five races all five have been at six furlongs and all of them have been in California. Last year when Secret Circle won the Breeders’ Cup sprint, trainer Bob Baffert did not send him east to run in this race, even though he faced an additionally $500K incentive. This year Baffert watched, as his horse didn’t have enough to defend his Breeders’ Cup Sprint title. I feel like this is more of a forced attempt at redemption rather than a confident move by Baffert.
Private Zone – Therefore my ‘chalky’ pick will be Private Zone. Private Zone continues to be an interesting horse, who tends to go off at a better price than his morning line odds. In the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Private Zone ran a respectable race holding on for third. Last year after a disappointing Breeders’ Cup, the son of Macho Uno ran great in the Cigar Mile, getting second at 32-1. Private Zone loves to run in New York, with three Grade 1 races in the Big Apple, he has two wins and a second.
Vyjack – More often than not, horses that go through the rigors of Derby prep season have a difficult time getting back to the form they once had. This certainly was the case for Vyjack; a horse who showed potential early as a three-year-old but seamed to be lost since running in the Kentucky Derby. So when Vyjack was eased at odds of 29-1 in the G2 Suburban Handicap earlier this year, it appeared that his career was in jeopardy. However since then something happened and he has run a trio of respectable races, culminating with a big win in the Kelso Handicap. Perhaps his connections realized that this horse is a one-turn miler. His breeding would certainly suggest this, as his sire Into Mischief has had great success with this type of race.
Bourbon Courage – Anyone who paced handicapped the Breeders’ Cup sprint couldn’t help but see Bourbon Courage’s name jump off the page after they saw how fast the set up would be. Knowing he would offer great value, he was going to be a make or break for the day. So when this person who had Bourbon Courage up and down the board saw him coming like a shot into the tiring pace, he couldn’t help but think he had handicapped everything perfectly. Unfortunately things don’t always work out that perfectly, despite his massive close in that race, the best he could muster was 4th. It is never fun to bet a horse back, knowing they will not offer the same value, but I can’t help but feel that the third race off the layoff for this son of Lion Heart may be sitting on his best performance yet.
Top Pick – 9 Bourbon Courage
Pick Four Picks – 9, 1, 4