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 $750,000 Grade 1 Cigar Mile will be televised on a special edition of Aqueduct Live, presented by Claiborne Farm, airing on FS2 MSG+ from 3-4:30 p.m. ET. Saturday's America’s Day at the Races, NYRA's final 'Live' show of 2019, will also present coverage and analysis of the Remsen, a race with valuable Kentucky Derby points at stake.
The Cigar Mile, now held the weekend after Thanksgiving, is one of my favorite races of the year and was the scene of one of my biggest scores ever with Purge in 2005.
Maximum Security will try to secure the 3-year-old division with another win against older horses on Saturday in his first appearance at the Big A.
A field of 10 will attempt to win the 31st 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 10 at 4:16 p.m. at Aqueduct:
1 – Whitmore (Moquette, Rosario, 8-1). Son of Pleasantly Perfect has won over $2.8 million and has been a warrior that can never be discounted. The 6-year-old gelding finished third in last month’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint against a speedy field. The added furlong should suit his closing style well and with added pace he will be a factor late.
2 –Bal Harbour (Pletcher, Velazquez, 8-1). Almost pulled the big upset in the Grade 1 Woodward and if not for a bumper car break, may have scored at 16-1. The cutback in distance could be just what the doctor ordered after a tiring third in the Grade 2 Fayette at Keeneland. A win would give Pletcher his fifth Cigar Mile to extend the record he currently holds. Son of First Samurai has a win at the distance at the Big A last November and has Hall of Famer Johnny V in the irons.
3 – Forewarned (St. Lewis, Salgado, 30-1). Uriah’s not shy on taking on the big boys and has pulled off more than one stunner in the past on the NYRA circuit. His sire, Flat Out, won the 2013 Cigar Mile and he’s only missed the board once in seven tries at the distance. The Ohio-bred won his last outing at Mahoning Valley at 10 furlongs against state-bred competition.
4 – Pat On the Back (Englehart, Davis, 15-1). Showed he can step out of state-bred stakes to graded company with a win in the Grade 2 Kelso at Belmont. He beat True Timber, a solid horse, in that race and the millionaire has been working well coming into the race. Would be a nice feather in Jeremiah’s cap if he could pull off the upset.
5 – Maximum Security (Servis, Saez, 3-2). Not often that the horse crossing the wire first in the Kentucky Derby is entered in the Cigar Mile, but here we are. The Haskell winner returned from a layoff to win the Bold Ruler at 7-furlongs at Belmont Park and makes his first appearance at Aqueduct. Prohibitive favorite will face older for the second straight race in hopes to sewing up the 3-year-old crown.
6 – Spun to Run (Guerrero, Ortiz, Jr., 5-2). Sophomore surprised at the Breeders’ Cup taking the Dirt Mile at 9-1. The Hard Spun colt posted a bullet at Parx and continues to look sharp entering his ninth race of the calendar year. Will be on the front end, likely with company and if he holds on like he did at Santa Anita he’ll be a factor in the stretch.
7 – Nicodemus (Rice, Franco, 20-1). Son of Candy Ride hasn’t fired since May and will have to shoot his best shot to compete with this field. The odds seem just about right as his only win in a graded race (G3 Westchester) came on a sloppy track. Consider underneath on an off track.
8 – Network Effect (Brown, Castellano, 15-1). The sleeper in the field came off an 11-month layoff to win an allowance at the distance at the track. The son of Mark Valeski, is lightly raced and is the unknown 3-year-old in the race. Has two big works on his morning tab and looks like he could be sitting on a big one. Upset threat.
9 – Looking at Bikinis (Brown, Ortiz, 15-1). The other Brown horse in the race rebounded from a poor effort in the Travers to win an allowance at Keeneland. The Lookin at Lucky colt has a strong workout last weekend and looks sharp coming into the race, but prefer others.
10 – Tale of Silence (Tagg, Alvarado, 20-1). The son of Tale of the Cat will look to give trainer Tagg his third Cigar Mile and first since 2010 (Jersey Town). Other than the hot connections at the Big A, it’s hard to find a way to the winner’s circle for the 5-year-old owned by Charles Fipke. Nice to see Tagg back on the national scene with a Derby horse, but his entry here looks overmatched.
11 – True Timber (McLaughlin, Bravo, 15-1). My pick in last year’s edition finished second to Patternrecognition in 2018. He’s still looking for his first graded stake win in 21 starts after six placings. Comes in third off the layoff, but draws the outside post. Hard to back due to chronic seconditis and lack of graded wins.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Spun to Run; 2 – Maximum Security ; 3 – Whitmore; 4 – Network Effect
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.