2020 Cigar Mile Handicap Cheat Sheet

Racing
Firenze Fire (left) and Performer headline a competitive nine-horse field for Saturday’s Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. (Eclipse Sportswire/Adam Coglianese-NYRA)

The $250,000 Cigar Mile Handicap at Aqueduct typically is the last race of the season with the status to make an impact on the Eclipse Awards for older males or 3-year-olds, whether that be the champion older male, sprint, or 3-year-old division.

While most division titles are wrapped up by this point in the season, a year ago Maximum Security cemented his credentials for the 3-year-old male Eclipse Award with a blowout win in this race, and certainly horses can and have snuck into the group of finalists for a division with a late-season Grade 1 win in the Cigar Mile.

The race was first held in 1988 when Forty Niner won the NYRA Mile for Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens. Subsequently renamed to honor the 1994 winner, Hall of Famer Cigar, this race also has been won over the years by Quiet American (1990), Rubiano (1991), Congaree (2002, 2003), Discreet Cat (2006), Kodiak Kowboy (2009), Flat Out (2013), and Tonalist (2015).

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Read on for more information about the nine horses entered in Saturday’s one-mile race for horses 3 years old and older. The Cigar Mile will be televised on FS2 during a one-hour broadcast of “America’s Day at the Races,” with a scheduled post time of 4:13 p.m. ET.


Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo

1. Performer (7-5)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Shug McGaughey

Owners: Phipps Stable and Claiborne Farm

Career record: 6 starts – 5 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $295,500

Earnings per start: $49,250

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 112

Pedigree: Speightstown – Protesting, by A.P. Indy

Color: Chestnut

Age: 4

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Performer might be a special racehorse, so if you’re looking for an entrant with upside, this Speightstown colt probably is your guy. He has won five straight races for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey after finishing third in his career debut. He’s won a couple of sprints, a Grade 3 race at 1 1/8 miles, and he’s won on a muddy track, so he is both talented and pretty versatile as well. This is a step up in class for sure for this 4-year-old, but Speightstown’s runners do tend to develop a bit later. With a career-best 112 Equibase Speed Figure and room to improve in only his seventh race, Performer is a strong candidate to ace this class test. He should be able to use his tactical speed to his advantage in a race light on early speed with elite rider Joel Rosario aboard, so he looks like a major contender in his second start after an 11 ½-month layoff. Performer comes from an elite family anchored by his fourth dam (maternal great-great grandmother), unbeaten champion and 1996 Broodmare of the Year Personal Ensign, while third dam (maternal great-grandmother), My Flag, by Easy Goer, was a multiple Grade 1 winner who produced champion Storm Flag Flying. Co-owner Claiborne Farm won the inaugural running of this race in 1988 with Forty Niner; trainer Shug McGaughey won the race in 1996 with Gold Fever.

Bet Performer in the Cigar Mile.


Joe Labozzetta/NYRA Photo

2. Mind Control (20-1)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Gregg Sacco

Owners: Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stables

Career record: 17 starts – 7 wins – 2 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $1,047,429

Earnings per start: $61,613

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 113

Pedigree: Stay Thirsty – Feel That Fire, by Lightnin N Thunder

Color: Bay

Age: 4

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Mind Control posted a stakes win and a runner-up finish at a mile in 2019 during his 3-year-old campaign, with the latter coming in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. Since then, the Stay Thirsty colt has raced exclusively in sprints from three-quarters of a mile to seven furlongs, including a win in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes in August 2019 in his final start as a 3-year-old. Big things were expected after he opened this year with back-to-back graded stakes wins at Aqueduct, but Mind Control is winless in five subsequent starts with a third in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes in July his best race during that stretch. He’s fast enough to be a serious threat in here and he has fared very well at this track with four wins and one second in five races at Aqueduct. That might be enough to overlook his disappointing recent form, but if you are betting the race you should demand a price that returns fair value. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez won this race in 2001 with Left Bank and 2015 on Tonalist. Mind Control’s sire, Stay Thirsty, won the Cigar Mile in 2012.

Bet Mind Control in the Cigar Mile.


Coady Photography

3. Snapper Sinclair (20-1)

Jockey: Manuel Franco

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Bloom Racing Stable

Career record: 28 starts – 5 wins – 6 seconds – 4 thirds

Career earnings: $1,388,260

Earnings per start: $49,581

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 116

Pedigree: City Zip – True Addiction, by Yes It's True

Color: Bay

Age: 5

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Snapper Sinclair has won only two of 20 career races on dirt and has made his three most recent starts on the grass, but he returns to the main track here against top-level competition as what figures to be a big price. While his two stakes victories came on the grass, Snapper Sinclair has finished in the top three in four graded stakes on dirt, with the most recent coming when second in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap back in February. Although he is winless in his last 10, Snapper Sinclair is capable of surprising with a strong race but the ceiling most likely is a minor award like filling out the trifecta. He moves up significantly on an “off” track, so give him a much longer look if the track comes up muddy or sloppy – he was a late addition to the field and there is rain in the forecast. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen won the Cigar Mile in 2009 with Kodiak Kowboy, a win that very likely pushed that horse over the top for the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter.

Bet Snapper Sinclair in the Cigar Mile.


Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo

4. Firenze Fire (5-2)

Jockey: Jose Lezcano

Trainer: Kelly Breen

Owner: Mr. Amore Stable

Career record: 30 starts – 12 wins – 3 seconds – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $2,218,250

Earnings per start: $73,942

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 119

Pedigree: Poseidon's Warrior – My Every Wish, by Langfuhr

Color: Bay

Age: 5

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Coming off a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Firenze Fire figures to be a popular pick in this race and very likely will vie for favoritism. While all six of his wins in 2019 and 2020 came in sprint races, he held his own when fifth in the Grade 1 Met Mile in June 2019 and before that ran fourth in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. In fact, Firenze Fire won three stakes races at one mile earlier in his career, including the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes as a 2-year-old and the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes as a 3-year-old with a sparkling 115 Equibase Speed Figure. Rain could negatively impact his chances as he’s lost his last three races on sloppy tracks by double-digit lengths, but Firenze Fire is consistently very fast and probably wins this race with a top effort. He’s at his best when he can stalk or press from just off the pace. With limited speed in this group, he should get an ideal setup on a track where he has won multiple stakes races. Jockey Jose Lezcano won the Cigar Mile in 2011 aboard To Honor and Serve.

Bet Firenze Fire in the Cigar Mile.


Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo

5. Mr. Buff (6-1)

Jockey: Junior Alvarado

Trainer: John Kimmel

Owners: Chester Broman Sr. and Mary Broman

Career record: 40 starts – 15 wins – 7 seconds – 4 thirds

Career earnings: $1,210,786

Earnings per start: $30,270

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 119

Pedigree: Friend Or Foe – Speightful Affair, by Speightstown

Color: Chestnut

Age: 6

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Mr. Buff has won 15 of 40 races with nine career stakes wins, including three in 2020, but he has never been able to get over the hump in a graded stakes. The Friend Or Foe gelding is unplaced in five starts in graded races. The front-runner should be able to set the pace in the Cigar Mile and enters off 3 ¼-length runaway victory in the Empire Classic Handicap in which he led from start to finish. He also has won his last seven starts at Aqueduct, including a 20-length romp in February 2020 in the one-mile Haynesfield Stakes in which he earned a career-best 119 Equibase Speed Figure. Expect Mr. Buff to lead a long way and become very brave up front if left unchallenged to dictate the tempo. It wouldn’t be a shocker to see him earn a breakthrough graded stakes win and he merits strong consideration on exacta and trifecta tickets. Jockey Junior Alvarado won this race in 2013 on Flat Out.

Bet Mr. Buff in the Cigar Mile.


Eclipse Sportswire

6. King Guillermo (9-2)

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: Juan Carlos Avila

Owner: Victoria's Ranch

Career record: 5 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $340,350

Earnings per start: $68,070

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 110

Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Slow Sand, by Dixieland Band

Color: Bay

Age: 3

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: The lone 3-year-old in the field, King Guillermo returns from an extended layoff to face older horses for the first time. He has not raced since finishing second to Nadal in a division of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby May 2. Before that, he won the Grade 2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby by 4 ¾ lengths to earn a career-best 110 Equibase Speed Figure. King Guillermo has had a few minor setbacks since the spring, including missing a planned start in the Sept. 4 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve after spiking a fever, but he is another lightly raced runner in here who could show significant improvement in only his sixth career start. King Guillermo has posted six workouts since Oct. 17 with a pair of eye-catching bullets drills (the fastest at the distance that day) on Nov. 1 and Nov. 20, but facing older horses for the first time in his first start in seven months is a tall order. Owner Victoria’s Ranch is the racing operation of five-time Major League Baseball All-Star Victor Martinez. Jockey Jose Ortiz won the Cigar Mile in 2018 aboard Patternrecognition.

Bet King Guillermo in the Cigar Mile.


Adam Coglianese/NYRA

7. Majestic Dunhill (20-1)

Jockey: Dylan Davis

Trainer: George Weaver

Owner: R. A. Hill Stable

Career record: 22 starts – 5 wins – 4 seconds – 4 thirds

Career earnings: $374,714

Earnings per start: $17,032

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 112

Pedigree: Majesticperfection – Candy Fortune, by Candy Ride

Color: Dark bay or brown

Age: 5

Running style: Stalker/Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Majestic Dunhill will be a sentimental favorite in the Cigar Mile as owner Randy Hill’s longtime racing manager and best friend William A. Price Jr. passed away Nov. 26. Majestic Dunhill enters off a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap Nov. 29, but before that he won the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap by a head on a muddy track at Belmont Park Oct. 31. The Cigar Mile is a quick turnaround for the Majesticperfection gelding and his first try stretching out to a mile, but he has finished in the top three in 13 of 22 career starts, so he’s worth considering to fill out trifecta tickets at what figures to be a big price.

Bet Majestic Dunhill in the Cigar Mile.


Eclipse Sportswire

8. True Timber (15-1)

Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche

Trainer: Jack Sisterson

Owner: Calumet Farm

Career record: 28 starts – 4 wins – 5 seconds – 9 thirds

Career earnings: $1,077,650

Earnings per start: $38,488

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 113

Pedigree: Mineshaft – Queen's Wood, by Tiznow

Color: Bay

Age: 6

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: True Timber is still looking for his first career stakes win, but he always seems to bring his best for the Cigar Mile. He finished second in the race in 2018, beaten by three-quarters of a length by Patternrecognition, and ran third last year behind dominant winner Maximum Security. Overall, True Timber has finished in the top three 10 times in stakes, including eight graded stakes. Winless in his last 13 starts, True Timber profiles more as a contender for a minor award then a win candidate, but he probably will be a big price who could spice up the exotics.

Bet True Timber in the Cigar Mile.


Keeneland/Coady Photography

9. Bon Raison (20-1)

Jockey: Jorge Vargas Jr.

Trainer: Jack Sisterson

Owner: Calumet Farm

Career record: 44 starts – 11 wins – 4 seconds – 7 thirds

Career earnings: $674,534

Earnings per start: $15,330

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 116

Pedigree: Raison d'Etat – Padmore, by French Deputy

Color: Dark bay or brown

Age: 5

Running style: Stalker/Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Bon Raison posted a career-best 116 Equibase Speed Figure when winning a three-quarter-mile allowance-optional claiming race Oct. 16 at Keeneland, but he could not repeat that effort against much-stronger competition three weeks later when he finished a nonthreatening 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He’s been outclassed in all but one try against graded stakes competition, a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap March 7, but several of his best races came on the main track at Aqueduct. It’s hard to envision this inconsistent runner finding his way to the winner’s circle, but if he matches his career best he could factor into the trifecta as he’s been in the top three in half of his 44 career races.

Bet Bon Raison in the Cigar Mile.

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