As of Dec. 1, New York Racing Association officials listed 10 probable starters in the Cigar Mile, one of four graded stakes on next Saturday’s card at Aqueduct.
Maximum Security, Gary and Mary West's homebred son of New Year's Day, figures to be the favorite as he chases a third Grade 1 victory in 2019 and attempts to strengthen his résumé for an Eclipse Award as the year's top 3-year-old male. Disqualified from first and placed 17th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, Maximum Security won the TVG.com Haskell Invitational Stakes, Xpressbet Florida Derby, and, most recently, the Bold Ruler Handicap on Oct. 26.
His main rival should be Robert Donaldson's Spun to Run, a 3-year-old son of Hard Spun who is coming off a victory over Omaha Beach in the Big Ass Fans Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile for trainer Juan Carlos Guerrero.
A solid group of older horses expected to line up for the Cigar Mile include Bal Harbour, who was second in the Woodward Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets; Kelso Handicap winner Pat On the Back, who was fifth in last year's Cigar; 2018 Cigar runner-up True Timber, who was third in the Bold Ruler; and $2.8 million earner Whitmore, who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Nov. 2.
Saturday's card will also feature a pair of 1 1/8-mile Grade 2 stakes for 2-year-olds – the Remsen Stakes and the Demoiselle Stakes for fillies. The $250,000 Remsen offers points toward a spot in the 2020 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve to the top four finishers on a sliding scale of 10-4-2-1. The $250,000 Demoiselle is a qualifying points race for the Longines Kentucky Oaks, with the same 10-4-2-1 allotment to the top four finishers.
A field of 11 is taking shape for the Remsen, headlined by Shadwell Stable’s Ajaaweed, who finished fourth in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 5 in his previous start. The Curlin colt, an impressive maiden winner at Belmont Park back in September, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.54 on Nov. 30 at Belmont in his final tuneup for the Remsen.
"He's doing very well. He shipped to Kentucky last time but didn't ship really well and wasn't quite himself for a couple of days," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin told NYRA’s press office. "He came back here and has been training very, very well, and he's ready. We think he wants a mile and an eighth, so all is well."
There are eight likely starters and four possible entrants in the Demoiselle, topped by Tempted Stakes winner Maedean and Alandra, who was third in the Darley Alcibiades Stakes.
The fourth graded stakes scheduled for Dec. 7 at Aqueduct is the 250,000, Grade 3 Go for Wand Handicap for fillies and mares age 3 and older.