In the fall of 1995, Cigar was in the middle of an unbeaten streak. The horse had won 11 straight races dating back to October 1994 and looked to extend that in the Breeders’ Cup Classic exactly a year after his first win of the streak.
Cigar didn’t appear to chase anyone away from the Classic, as the field drew 11 horses with seven Grade 1 winners in the gate. But Cigar, going off at odds of 7-to-10, didn’t disappoint. He easily won by 2 ½ lengths against the strong field to extend his winning streak to 12 races. Unaccounted For, the last horse to defeat Cigar, finished third in the Classic more than three lengths behind the winner.
After a well-deserved break, Cigar returned to the track in February 1996 as Horse of the Year. As expected, he went off at odds of 1-to-5 odds in the Donn Handicap and easily won by two lengths. The victory convinced his team that his next start should come in a race a half a world away.
Shipping to Dubai, Cigar was entered in the inaugural Dubai World Cup for an attempt at the $2,400,000 winner’s share of the $4 million purse. Cigar had to fight a determined Soul of the Matter to the finish line but beat his fellow American by a half-length with the rest of the field eight lengths behind the pair. The win led to an invasion of Americans at the World Cup with U.S.-trained horses winning eight of the first 14 editions of the race.
Cigar was back in the U.S. and ready to run two months later to defend his title in the Massachusetts Handicap, a race he had won the year before by four lengths. Proving the long journey from Dubai hadn’t taken much out of him, Cigar easily bounded to a 2 ¼-length win with Personal Merit the only horse within 10 lengths of Cigar.
Getting back on his normal monthly racing schedule, Cigar extended his winning margin to 3 1/2 lengths in the Arlington Citation Challenge Invitational Stakes. However, after 16 straight victories, Cigar’s streak was about to come to an end.
Shipping to California to contest the Pacific Classic, Cigar still looked unbeatable. He was coming into the race with three starts under his belt that year with a combined winning margin of 4 ¾ lengths. Jerry Bailey, Cigar’s regular rider, was in the saddle and it looked like all systems were go.
In front of a huge Del Mar crowd, Cigar went off at odds of 1-to-10. But Cigar fell into the trap of stalking a fast pace, with three of the race’s quarters being run in 23.33 seconds or less. Cigar hit the lead in the stretch but Dare and Go shot past him like he was standing still to go on to a 3 ½-length victory with Cigar seven lengths ahead of Siphon for second.
"There's an old saying that pace makes the race, and that had something to do with the outcome today," Bill Mott, Cigar’s trainer, told the Los Angeles Times. "You can go only so fast and then have enough to finish, and we became a victim of that today."
Cigar moved on from the loss a month later in the Woodward Stakes, where he was ridden out to win by four lengths in what would become the last win of his career. He fell to Skip Away by a head in the Jockey Club Gold Cup before finishing his career with the worst placing he had had since October 1994, a third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Coolmore Stud bought 75% of the horse after he was retired two weeks after the Classic with the idea that about 85 mares would be bred to him in his first year. But in March 1997, Cigar failed to impregnate any mares with Allen Paulson telling the Baltimore Sun after the first 12 failed to get in foal that he believed Cigar was infertile.
"I'm quite certain he is," Paulson said. "His sperm have no life."
After it was found that Cigar was indeed infertile, Coolmore and Paulson turned the horse over to Assicuazion Generali Insurance, the company that insured the stallion. Generali sent Cigar to a top reproduction specialist in Paris, Ky. but after a few years it was found that nothing could be done to restore his fertility.
In May 1999, Cigar moved to the Hall of Champions at Kentucky Horse Park where he quickly acclimated to getting attention from visitors who came to the park, especially in the Hall of Champions’ daily shows of the barn’s residents. His participation in the shows continues to this day.
“[Cigar] is stabled at our Hall of Champions and he is there at the barn every day … all of the horses that are in the Hall of Champions show have day-on and day-off schedules just like the human workers. So he’s not necessarily in the show every day but he is at the barn every day,” said Lisa Jackson, director of marketing and public relations at the Kentucky Horse Park.
As the most popular resident of the Kentucky Horse Park, Cigar knows how important he is and treats the staff around him as if they are there only to serve him. Never shy of an audience, Cigar also shows off for anyone who wants to see a great horse.
“He knows that he is a superstar … he’s not a love bug but he is the professional and he knows he’s a superstar and everyone is here to see him,” Jackson said. “He treats the staff as his staff and he treats the audience as his deserving audience to come see him. You can actually see that in his temperament.”
Fans have proven that the stallion is right in his assumption that he is important through their reactions to him during visits and on social media. Every post the park puts up about Cigar gets the most likes and comments of any the park posts on social media. Many of the comments talk about coming to see Cigar or about how much they love the horse, even though he hasn’t been near a track in more than 16 years.
In addition to the impact Cigar has had on the Kentucky Horse Park, they have something else to be proud of when it comes to the horse as well. When Cigar first moved to the Horse Park, Assicuazion Generali still owned the stallion but a few years ago he was fully donated to the Kentucky Horse Park
“A few years ago, Generali Insurance, did finally donate him 100-percent outright to the Kentucky Horse Park, so he now actually belongs to us,” Jackson said. “After his owners filed the insurance claim, Generali owned him for many years and they did keep doing tests on him hoping to reverse the issue and they did a few years ago finally donate him … to the Horse Park. So he’s 100-percent at home now.”
CIGAR AT THE HORSE PARK
Photo courtesy of Melissa Bauer-Herzog
Cigar had to share the spotlight with another superstar when he first moved to the Horse Park, as John Henry resided in the Hall of Champions as well until his death in 2007. Cigar helped the Park’s healing process by stepping into the shoes of the popular gelding after his death, something Jackson still notices today.
“While everyone misses John Henry, they have embraced Cigar and love him as well as they’ve always loved John Henry and show him that same love and devotion, and I just think that’s beautiful,” she said. “All of the horses are so deserving of that and it’s just very heartwarming to see that racing fans and maybe fans that never followed racing, they just love horses … they open their hearts to these horses and they’ve done that for Cigar and it’s just beautiful.“