Photo: Hodges Photography
While the Mark Valseski entry has not surprisingly taken their spot as the morning line favorite for Sunday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby, did you happen to notice who was a strong second choice? The horse’s name is Cigar Street, and he has been given a rousing vote of confidence by Fair Grounds morning-line odds maker, Mike Diliberto, who pegged the son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner, Street Sense, at 7-2 in the 14-horse field. Not bad for a horse that was a maiden just three short weeks ago. Then again, when Cigar Street broke his maiden in his second career start, it was far from the ordinary performance. Purchased for $130,000 as a two-year-old in training at Keeneland last April by owner Jake Ballis, Cigar Street was sent off a 9-5 favorite in the maiden affair at Fair Grounds on March 10. The 1 1/16 mile race followed a troubled trip 5th in his career debut when the winner, Bourbon Courage, blistered the six furlongs in 1:09 1/5. Backers of Cigar Street never had a worry in his second start, as the Steve Margolis runner turned the 11-horse contest into a one-horse show. Taking the lead right from the start, Cigar Street continued to widen the gap all the way to the finish, and under rider Shaun Bridgmohan, reached the wire 13 3/4 lengths in front. His final time of 1:43.75 was good enough to earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 99.
While Margolis pondered what do next with his talented colt, in the end he let his horse make the decision. Another strong workout was all he would need to see. The five-furlong breeze in 1:01.20 came last Sunday, and was enough for Margolis to enter the burgeoning star in the most important event of the New Orleans racing season. Margolis is looking forward to a big afternoon on Louisiana Derby Day.
“This is exciting,” said Margolis. “To have Cigar Street jump up and run big in a maiden race and now go into the big race as the second choice is a big thrill for me. Also, we’ve got Inny Minnie going in the Fair Grounds Oaks on Saturday (also owned by Ballis and Lewis as the $500,000 Oaks’ projected 4-1 third choice) and (Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein’s) Cash Refund in the ($150,000) Duncan Kenner (as the 5-2 second choice) on Sunday.
“They are all doing great and I’m looking forward to this weekend,” concluded Margolis. “This has been a good meet for us. Now, I hope we can end it up on a good note.”
It’s about as rare as can be that you see a horse step up from a maiden race to win a $1 million dollar biggie, so the question begs, does Cigar Street really have a chance in this major Kentucky Derby prep? I believe the answer is yes. He certainly gives up tons of experience to the rest, but considering his strong distance pedigree, his successful connections, and his obvious talent, I think he fits with this group. While he will not be my top choice, that falls to 12-1 morning line chance, Windsurfer, from the Todd Pletcher barn, Cigar Street is one of the horses I fear the most in here, along with Mark Valeski, Rousing Sermon, and Z Dager. Oh, and by the way, Windsurfer is also coming into the Louisiana Derby directly off a maiden win.