It’s one of the last big weekends of racing of 2018.
Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park will be the site of a big card featuring the signature event of the Fall meet in the Cigar Mile. The card, will also features the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen for 2-year-olds, the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle for 2-year-old fillies, and the Grade 3, $250,000 Go For Wand Handicap for older fillies and mares.
The Cigar Mile will be televised on a special edition of Aqueduct Live, presented by Claiborne Farm, airing on MSG+ from 3-4:30 p.m. ET. Saturday's Aqueduct Live, NYRA's final 'Live' show of 2018, will also present coverage and analysis of the Remsen, a race with valuable Kentucky Derby points at stake.
The Cigar Mile, which moved from its traditional Thanksgiving weekend date to the week after last year, is one of my favorite races of the year. Todd Pletcher holds the record with four career wins in the race and will be seeking his fifth with Copper Town, a promising son of Speightstown.
A field of eight will attempt to win the 30th edition of the race named for the great Cigar.
Here’s a look at the entries for the Cigar Mile (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis) which will be run as Race 9 at 3:45 p.m. at Aqueduct:
1 – Mendelssohn (O’Brien, Moore, 2-1). The world traveler is back looking for his first Grade 1 win on the dirt after winning last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar. He may enjoy the shorter distance but his backers won’t enjoy the shorter price here in the Cigar. You have to admire the sportsmanship of the connections giving another race in the States a shot. My Derby pick could finally break through for world class jockey Ryan Moore and trainer Aidan O’Brien.
2 –Sunny Ridge (Servis, Ortiz, Jr., 9-2). Son of Holy Bull finished a beaten length in the Grade 2 Kelso behind the Brown horse on the outside. Still looking to notch a graded stake win and has the talented Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons. Has been competitive at the distance, but can you trust him?
3 – Pat On the Back (Englehart, Davis, 15-1). New York-bred trying open company for the first time, seems a bit ambitious, but he’s a solid horse with connections who wouldn’t put him in here unless they thought he had a shot. His numbers fit and could enjoy the cut back. Long shot play underneath.
4 – Stan the Man (Terranova, Cancel, 30-1). Only broke his maiden four starts ago in his tenth career race. Seems a bit up against it against this group and a bit on the slow side. Been in the exacta six times in seven career races at the Big A. Hard pass.
5 – Copper Town (Pletcher, Castellano, 5-2). Steps up in class after winning three straight including a win over the highly regarded Patternrecognition. Second choice on the morning line for Pletcher, seeking a record fifth triumph. His work tab suggests he’s ready to roll and while it’s been a quiet year for the Toddster, he has relished this race at Aqueduct.
6 – True Timber (McLaughlin, Bravo, 12-1). Mineshaft colt who shouldn’t have an issue stretching out to a mile for Kiaran. Should be tracking Mendelssohn early on and should have the stamina to hold on. Like him at that price and his morning efforts say he’s ready.
7 – Timeline (Brown, Velazquez, 10-1). Son of Hard Spun has disappointed in the big races, but ran a pretty good third in the Kelso. He’s burned a few too many greenbacks for me to back him here. Seems a tad behind the upper crust and will sit this one out.
8 – Patternrecognition (Brown, Ortiz, 7-2). Florida-bred will run in the New York frigid air before and has been in the exacta nine out of 10 career races. He’s tough to leave off our tickets and always gives a solid effort. Terrific connections and will be on the engine early. Too much speed might just do him in this time though, we’ll use him underneath in the three and four spots in the exotics.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – True Timber; 2 – Copper Town; 3 – Mendelssohn; 4 – Patternrecognition
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.