Photo: Don August
I am really looking
forward to the 2013 Cigar Mile,
probably more as the Horse Racing Nation NYRA correspondent than as a
handicapper. There are so many questions about the very contentious field and
what will happen during the race, that it is going to be much easier to write
about the outcome than to pick the winner.
Tougher than the
With the lure of purse
incentives for grade one winners to run for $750,000 and Breeders’ Cup
champions going after $1,000,000, the Cigar Mile has one of the strongest
fields assembled in 2013.
The field, which unexpectedly
drew 11 horses, includes six grade one winners: Goldencents (BC Dirt Mile),
Groupie Doll (BC Filly and Mare Sprint), Verrazano (Wood Memorial at AQU and
Haskell), Capo Bastone (King’s Bishop), Flat Out (Jockey Club Gold Cup), and
Private Zone (Vosburgh).
It appears that Goldencents and Groupie Doll will be facing competition that is much more difficult
than the Breeders’ Cup races that they won some four weeks ago.
Sprinter or Router? One
Turn or Two Turns?
The NYRA Mile was first created and run in 1988 as a way to get the top
sprinters and routers to compete in the same race. This silver edition of the
race certainly fits the bill.
This year’s field is loaded with sprinters: Capo Bastone, Clearly Now,
Forty Tales, Groupie Doll, Laugh Track,
and Private Zone. Can these sprinters get the full one-turn mile distance? Or
will it be one of the routers, the horses that have had significant success at
the mile and beyond: Flat Out, Goldencents,
Praetereo, Saratoga Snacks, and Verrazano?
Since the year 2000, more of the Cigar Mile winners have done the best
running of their careers at a mile or longer. Only Kodiak Kowboy in 2009,
Congaree in 2002 and 2003, and Left Bank in 2001 had most of their success in
sprints and were able to stretch out to handle the mile.
A couple of trainers have both running styles covered with their
multiple entrants. Doug O’Neill has Private Zone sprinting and Goldencents going long. Todd Pletcher has sprinters in Capo Bastone and Forty Tales and
Verrazano as a router.
Breeders’ Cup Bounce?
A favorite angle of some handicappers is the Breeders’ Cup bounce.
Proponents of this bounce like to eliminate any horse whose last start was in the
World Championships. If so, that would leave only four possible winners in Forty Tales, Clearly Now, Praetereo, and Saratoga Snacks because the other seven
runners all made their last start in a Breeders’ Cup race. I don’t put much
credence in this angle because in 2012 there were plenty of horses that came
back and ran well.
In 2012 Groupie Doll won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and
then narrowly missed winning the Cigar Mile. This year she gets an extra week
of rest after her win at Santa Anita.
Verrazano’s Last Stand?
I am borrowing the title from one of Brian Zipse’s recent blogs about the Cigar Mile. Verrazano is a horse
that many racing fans love to dismiss, saying that he can’t handle any
adversity. That may be true, but he was at his best at Aqueduct with his most
gritty victory in the Wood Memorial. He is one of the few horses that has any
experience on this track. Add in his record of six wins in nine career starts
and I can’t wait to see if Verrazano can get his greatest victory in his last
Check back on Saturday evening, after the race, for my recap when we
will have the answers to all these questions.