One of the last Grade 1 races of the year will highlight Saturday’s card at Aqueduct racetrack. I fondly remember sitting in the Wehrle OTB on Thanksgiving weekend in 2005 making a last minute across the board Cigar Mile wager on a 25-1 longshot named Purge. The son of Pulpit had won the Jim Dandy and the Peter Pan as a 3-year-old, but his signature win was that Grade 1 victory at Aqueduct for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Pletcher is back again in 2016, looking to add a fifth Cigar Mile to his long resume of Grade 1 training wins. He’ll saddle Anchor Down in a field of 10 in the $500,000 feature race. Chad Brown will send out a triumvirate of horses seeking his first ever Cigar Mile training victory.
The Saturday card in New York also includes the Grade 2 Demoiselle and Grade 2 Remsen, races for 2-year-olds that will provide 10-4-2-1 qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks and Derby, respectively. The card will also have a Grade 3, the Comely for 3-year-old fillies on the Big A Fall Meet’s biggest day.
Here’s a look at the entries for the Cigar Mile (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):
1 – Anchor Down (Pletcher, J Ortiz, 2-1). Pletcher’s hope for a fifth Cigar Mile draws the rail. He comes out of an impressive win in the Grade 2 Kelso on Jockey Club Gold Cup day over Tarmarkuz who went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after finishing second that day. Comes in off a sharp workout and looks to be the one to beat.
2 – Economic Model (Brown, Rosario, 6-1). This Brown trainee is still looking for his first graded victory after three second-place finishes and a third in five graded stakes. Will be his first race at the Big A and has competed in his last three efforts. Just can’t seem to get over the hump, but will be a threat to hit the board.
3 – Realm (Tagg, Lopez, 20-1). He comes off an allowance win at Aqueduct to step up in class in a big way against top flight horses. Son of Haynesfield will need a big effort to contend and finds himself in deep waters.
4 – Mylute (Nicks, Cancel, 30-1). Veteran 6-year-old horse is on his third trainer and his 33rd career race. Is $52K short of becoming a $1 million career earner. Is a late runner who can sneak up and hit the trifecta or superfecta, but is not likely a win threat.
5 – Ocean Knight (McLaughlin, Velazquez, 10-1). Son of Curlin hasn’t won in over a year and would be a tough spot to break out of that slump. He was a non-threatening third in the Kelso last month and would need a supreme effort to capture his first Grade 1.
6 – Tale of S’avali (Tagg, Franco, 20-1). His sire won the 2008 edition of the race and sports a couple of nice workouts coming into the race. Won an allowance at Belmont last out and trainer Tagg hits the board at a 49 percent clip after a win. My longshot play, will use him underneath in the exotics.
7 – Connect (Brown, Castellano, 5-2). Classy winner of the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby that has is 4-for-6 lifetime. Son of Curlin gets the return ride from Castellano who rode him to victory at Parx against a quality field that included two classic winners. Main contender.
8 – War Story (Serey, Gallardo, 50-1). Was a well beaten horse in the Breeders’ Cup Classic where he was way in over his head. The owner is not afraid to take a shot. No chance.
9 – Threefiveindia (Brown, I Ortiz, Jr., 6-1). Chad is a 32 percent winner when trying the sprint to route angle and this one contended against the likely favorite in the Kelso last out. The Street Hero colt may savor the extra furlong and could be overlooked on the tote. Dangerous.
10 – Divining Rod (Delacour, Centano, 8-1). First time blinkers for the son of Tapit who is 3-for-3 at the distance and could be a factor. Cuts back in distance after a solid effort that earned a decent speed figure in the Fayette in October at Keeneland. Has a nice effort on his work tab. Worth a shot and could be value on the board at post time. The pick.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Divining Rod; 2 – Connect; 3 – Anchor Down; 4 – Threefiveindia
Longshot Play: Tale of S’avali
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.