The Cigar Mile, Aqueduct ... Runners Guide

Trainer Todd Pletcher sends a pair of able-bodied runners into the famed Cigar Mile on Saturday. See a full rundown of the field below ...
Trainer Todd Pletcher sends a pair of able-bodied runners into the famed Cigar Mile on Saturday. See a full rundown of the field below ...
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Race 10: 1 Mile (Dirt), The Cigar Mile (G1), Purse $750k, 3+ (Saturday)

A mainstay on the card in early December at Aqueduct, the Cigar Mile is a Grade 1 contest that tests the marrow of older runners. Named for the famed champion who wowed crowds in the 90s, this race has a major purse (back to $750k) that would be the envy of any group of connections. Since it was renamed The Cigar Mile in 2011, there have been some excellent winners including Barclay Tagg’s Tale of Ekati, Bill Mott’s To Honor and Serve, Christophe Clement’s Tonalist, Chad Brown’s Patternrecognition, and last year’s victor, True Timber. That runner, from the barn of Jack Sisterson bested 3 other favorites enroute to a nice score at odds of 7/1. The 2021 renewal promises to be another rousing time!

Now, let’s find out about this field…

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#1 Following Sea (Jky: J. Velazquez/Trn: T. Pletcher):

The powerhouse operation at Spendthrift Farm does not dabble in racing. They are committed to it just as much as anything. Here is a runner that used to be with Bob Baffert, but was switched to Todd Pletcher back in April. Since then, the 3-yr-old colt has run well, with a nice score in the Vosburgh (G2) at Belmont. That was a short field, and he did follow up with a 3rd in the BC Sprint. A son of Runhappy, this Quick Flip homebred is going to be stretching out to a mile. Johnny V gets the call, and maybe he can make something happen from that inside post position.

Grade: B-

 

#2 Plainsman (Jky: M. Franco/Trn: B. Cox):

This horse is a seasoned 6-yr-old for Brad Cox, and there is little doubt that his experience in BT races is sound. Jumping up into this company seems to be a bit of a stretch, but Cox is a strong conditioner whose reputation precedes him. I think this one needs a fair amount of pace to run into, and if he gets it, then maybe Manny Franco can make a move before the top of the lane. A son of Flatter, this runner is used to being considered the odds-on favorite, but that probably will not be the case this time around.

Grade: B-

 

#3 Americanrevolution (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: T. Pletcher):

Since coming to the Pletcher Barn (other than a 3rd in the PA Derby behind Hot Rod and M. Bourbon), this colt by Constitution has been flawless. The Cigar Mile is going to be a true test though, and Luis Saez is not going to be able to just coast to victory by some 11-lengths. Still, if you believe he is poised for an even greater breakout, then this is your horse. His posted speed figs continue to impress, and Pletcher’s ability is resolute in situations like this one. A top pick for many a ‘capper …

Grade: A-

 

#4 Code of Honor (Jky: T. Gaffalione/Trn: S. McGaughey):

I was pretty sure that Shug’s 5-yr-old was heading to the breeding shed after running 2nd in the Fayette (G2) last time at Keeneland. Lane’s End and the Farish folks are putting that retirement on ice, and instead kept the son of Noble Mission (GB) in training. Tyler Gaffalione, fresh off yet another riding title at Churchill Downs gets the call once again. Shug clearly thinks that this one has more to accomplish. His class is undeniable, even if his ability to keep pace is questionable.

Grade: B

 

#5 Independence Hall (Jky: J. Castellano/Trn: M. McCarthy):

Owned by the excellent Aron Wellman and Eclipse Thoroughbreds, you can never count those connections out of any contest. The victor in the Fayette (G2) @KEE, this one went coast-to-coast in that affair, acquitting himself well. He beat his gatemate, Shug’s #4 that day, and I would expect that trainer Mike McCarthy will instruct Javier Castellano to try and do the same in this race. These Constitution runners are solid, and ever since this one made the switch to working out of SoCal, he appears to be improving since that event. “Clean faces and all that …”

Grade: B+

 

#6 Ginobili (Jky: D. Van Dyke/Trn: R. Baltas):

If you are looking for a runner who made a major class jump 2 races back, and wowed the crowds out at Del Mar, then this is your pick. Slam Dunk Racing and Richard Baltas have ridden the wave, first by winning the Pat O’Brien (G2), and then following it up with a 2nd behind Life Is Good in the BC Dirt Mile (G2). For a gelding who mainly ran in OC40k events this past year, that was an amazing accomplishment. If he can ship to the East Coast, and be ready to run, then he might have a shot at a major upset. Some think he is ready … Drayden Van Dyke makes the trip too, and he could use a win on the road.

Grade: C+

 

#7 Olympiad (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: B. Mott):

 HOF trainer Bill Mott is going to tempt fate and send an ALLW Co. runner into the Cigar Mile. If this was any other trainer, I might say they were “daft,” but Mott has a record that is pretty impressive. Back at Keeneland in one of their high-level ALLW86k events going 7F on the MT, the colt by Speightstown went gate-to-wire against a field of 9 others. He is fast as can be, and with Joel Rosario taking over the controls, he might be a sleeper pick. Maybe a speed duel will develop that he can win, otherwise it is going to be a big ask.

Grade: C+

 

#8 Pipeline (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: C. Brown):

Another son of Speightstown comes calling in this race, and he has some talent at his disposal. Trainer Chad Brown sent him out in the Perryville 150k @KEE back 23 Oct., and he ended up a sad 3rd. Losing the lead in the stretch is never a good sign. Now, the class waters get much deeper, and jockey Jose Ortiz is going to have to hope when it comes time for the cue, that something is there. Even with Brown’s fine numbers in spots like these, I am thinking he is just not ready for primetime.

Grade: C+

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Join us Saturday for all of our NYRA selections! Should be a great set of races from the “Big A!”

Aqueduct Race 10 16:13 ET

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