Surprise Winner May Be in Store in Cigar Mile

Cigar Mile Handicap (Grade 1)- $750.000 Purse
AQU- For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile on the Dirt
December 7, 2019

The highlight of this weekend will be at AQU as the 16th running of the Cigar Mile Handicap takes place. This is a field that is loaded with runners that were last seen in the BC last weekend running for a sizable purse. 2017 was the first year that the purse was $750.000, seeing an increase from $500.000, and being over double what the race debuted for, $350.000 in 2004. The most successful trainer in the stake is Grimley, who won three in a row from 2014 to 2016. He has been seen in some other stakes recently, so perhaps next year he can try to win his fourth. For now, the gate is full with fourteen runners from a variety of trainers. Weights in the race range from 118 to 121, so that will not be a big factor here. Let’s look at the field!

#1- Insert The Flirt (Maletto, ridden by J Bravo)- Runs for the fourth time since acquired in the June auction, though it is his first race since the end of September. In that race, he was third in an optional claimer. You have to go back 14 months to find the last time he was seen in a graded race. I didn’t really like his work here last week, but perhaps there was a reason for that. Tough to be excited about him here, but the trainer must be seeing something that has them optimistic.

#2- Iron Cross (Fractious, ridden by J Alvarado)- The trainer has three in this race, and Iron Cross is a new addition to the stable, being acquired last week in private sales for $125.000. He is a consistent horse, just as long as we throw out his last race, a dud in a DMR optional claimer. His works are fantastic, and likely the reason for his entry. Does not otherwise have a lot of history at this level.

#3- Flamenco Beach (Our Athletes, ridden by I Ortiz Jr)- Acquired in the September auction for $39.900, and proceeded to run second in the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap shortly after. Last fall was a good time of year for him, but this year he has been mostly in open allowances. He knows how to get a piece of the purse though, so it is an interesting question with him as to whether or not he was just lost in the shuffle of Mb Stables. Seems to like this distance more then the longer distances, too. Intriguing.

#4- Splash Mountain (John Henry, ridden by R Bejarano)- The winner of the 2018 BC Classic was not given much hope by bettors to defend that title, but he did run fifth at odds of 24/1. His lone win since the 2018 race was the Whitney this August, so we know he still has it in him. The question concerning Splash Mountain is will he be ready for the finish line to come up when it does. He has not run this distance (or shorter) since the spring of last year. Sure, he’ll be fine, but my concern is always more about this type of horse moving into the distance wheelhouse of others.

#5- Marx On The Moon (Court Jester Racing, ridden by M Franco)- He was the winner of the Grade 3 Bay Shore here back in April, but that is the last time that he has won a race. Since then, the trainer had moved him into races that were over a mile and while those races were decent, his results got better again when he was cut back. Ran third in the Grade 1 Jerkens Memorial, but has been interestingly idle since late September.

#6- Rainstorm (Fractious, ridden by J R Velazquez)- Comes out of the BC Classic, a race in which he ran 12th. He has gone back and forth between long sprints and running long, and has had success both ways. Most notably, of course, was his second place finish in the KYD. However, he has been the most consistent, it seems, when running in long sprints. Though in his last six starts, he has alternated better finishes and double digit finishes at a variety of distances. The pattern though shows that he is due for a good one here.

#7- Rotten Apple (Nakamura Stables, ridden by T Gaffalione)- There are only a few horses in this field who I would label as an up and comer, and Rotten Apple is one of them. Last year and most of this year saw him run well in optional claimers, but he was gradually moved forward over the year, and he ran third in the LA Derby (LA) before winning the Grade 3 WV Governors Stakes. This is certainly the toughest field he has ever faced but he should not be ruled out from getting a piece of this, though probably not one to put on top.

#8- American Phuegoah (The A Stable, ridden by M J Sanchez)- He is a winner of four of six this year, so perhaps he is now showing the potential that he had as a three year old when he ran in a couple top notch races, including the Grade 1 Vanderbilt. His stake attempts are not resulting in hitting the board at all, as he is 0-for-6 in doing so. He’s getting another shot here, but his chances might be getting slim to prove that he belongs at the highest of levels.

#9- Glorious (Spankys Barn, ridden by D Van Dyke)- While others in here cut back on their distance, Glorious is a traditional sprinter looking to cover a little more ground here then he usually does. He’s been a gritty five year old, and this will be his 34th career start, and he is not slowing down. After all, he is coming off a win in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap right here in late October. It may be good that he does not have to worry about the BC blues which can sometimes plague a BC runner in their follow up start. Speed figures great. Very tempted by him! Let’s make him the pick.

#10- For The Boys (D J C Racing Stables, ridden by R M Hernandez)- Ran in the BC Classic last month, and had an uneventful race, finishing ninth. His last run at a mile was a win, coming in the $200.000 Commentator for NY-breds in May. There’s no doubt he likes to go long, as seen by running third in the Haskell and then second in Travers. In fact, all was great going into the BC so perhaps it can become great again.

#11- Nice Distorted Laff (Night Rider Stables, ridden by Ro Maragh)- This is the first of two in the field that come out of the BC Dirt Mile, and both are by the same trainer. I am actually a little surprised that we did not see more come here out of the race. The trainer has put his favorite jockey on this entry, so perhaps that means he feels this is his best chance to win. He paced the field in the Dirt Mile, but dropped to eighth in the stretch. Could attempt that tactic here again.

#12- Pure Gifts- Scratched. So that’s right, no Mb Stables runners here.

#13- Sonador (Night Rider Stables, ridden by J J Castellano)- It was not a good post draw for Night Rider Stables. Sonador also ran fourth in the BC Dirt Mile, and despite what I said about the jockeys, I do feel Sonador is his better entry. The gelding came on well in the stretch to get a piece of the purse there, but had been on good form even before that. In the race prior, he won the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap. This is tough spot to win from, but not impossible.

#14- Charlemagnes Command- Scratched.

#15- Machine Gun Tommy (Fractious, ridden by S X Bridgmohan)- It’s quite a leap of faith that the trainer is taking with Machine Gun Tommy in just his second race off a $20.000 claim. Overall, he is 3-for-5 in his career, so that’s a good start but he has not been anywhere near stake competition. Six furlongs is also the furthest he has gone. Easier to take this type of shot when you have two others in the field.

#16- Charleys Glance (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by A Beschizza)- Acquired in April from Chili King Stables in private sales for $175.000, Charleys Glance was slow to reach the potential that Maxmillion Farm felt he had. He still might not be fully there yet, but he did win the $150.000 Schiller on the grass here last month. Most of his career has been on the grass, though a few main track starts have happened with ambitious placement. Here’s another case of that.

Prediction: 9-6-5-13

— NS



Categories: Grade I, STAKES ARTICLES

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