November 24, 2011 - 11:35 PM
The Grade 1 $250,000 Cigar Mile Handicap represents the final Grade 1 race of the year in New York racing, to be run on Saturday afternoon at Aqueduct Race Track. It’s one of my favorite races of the year and a race that a big score can be ripe for the taking. In 2005, I sat in the Wehrle OTB and watched a 25-1 longshot named Purge close with a flurry to upset a star-studded field. His babies are running this year and we’ve been keeping a close eye on them due the big score he gave us that day in late November six years ago.
This year seven horses, including one entry by the Todd Pletcher barn will contest for the Grade 1 honors. Pletcher is tied with Bob Baffert with three career wins in this race over its 21 year history. One horse, To Honor and Serve, comes out of the biggest race of the year, the Breeders’ Cup Classic and tries to rebound after a solid effort in the Pennsylvania Derby.
1 – Calibrachoa (Pletcher, C Velasquez, 5-2) – Represents the first half of the Repole/Pletcher entry who will stretch out to a mile for the first time ever. He runs back after winning the rescheduled Grade 3 Bold Ruler at Aqueduct three weeks ago.
1a –Caixa Electronica (Pletcher, J Velazquez, 5-2) – Second half of entry has never won more than a Grade 3 in his career. Solid horse but will have to run his best effort to surpass his counterparts. The entry is solid, but will play no better than third.
2- Pretty Boy Freud (Ortiz, O’Brien, 20-1) – Draws the rail with the bug boy in the irons, thus receiving a weight break of six to seven pounds to the highweights in this race. Has never won at the distance and has a tendency to throw in a clunker every now and again. Pass.
3- Haynesfield (Dominguez, Asmussen, 4-1) – Last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup champ and runner-up in the 2010 Cigar Mile, Haynesfield could be just the right price to take a shot at this one. Comes in second off the layoff for Steve Asmussen and has a solid workout under his belt. Dominguez owns the Big A, so he could spring the upset at a decent price.
4 – Hymn Book (McGaughey IIIl,Garcia, 8-1) – Shug cuts back in distance with Alan Garcia in the saddle. Has only missed the board twice in 12 efforts, represents a very possible upset victim. The cutback angle makes him dangerous and if it’s hot on the front end he could pick up the pieces late. We will make a flyer saver bet on him.
5 – To Honor and Serve (Mott, Lezcano, 7-5) – Deserving favorite who was within striking distance in the stretch at the Classic and had a lot of buzz going into the race. The mile distance may suit him perfectly. He won the one mile Grade 2 Nashua here last November, so he can handle the track and the distance without issue. Bill Mott, who won the race in 1994 with the race’s namesake, has not won the race since it was renamed the Cigar Mile in 1997, but feels his horse is ready to contest. “Shortening back from 1 ¼ miles to a mile is not usually an easy task, but it’s possible,” said Mott. “I know it’s a bit of a squeeze to come back after a race like that, but he’s feeling good, it’s a Grade 1, and probably the last race of the season for him.”
6 – Sangaree (bin Suroor, Maragh, 5-1) – The Godophin entry has solid excuses in his last two races where he finished second, but he just doesn’t seem to get it done. His work tab looks fabulous so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to include him underneath in the trifecta and superfecta wagering, but can’t see him having the class to handle the best in here.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Haynesfield; 2 –To Honor and Serve; 3 – Pletcher Entry
Long shot possibility : Hymn Book
Good luck and let’s go cash some tickets!
Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.