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Sangaree Takes Shot in Cigar Mile

When Sangaree competes in next Saturday's Cigar Mile Handicap, he'll have a tough family legacy to follow. The 6-year-old is a half-brother to Congaree, who at Aqueduct posted dominant victories in the 2002 and 2003 editions of the Cigar Mile and also captured the Wood Memorial and Carter Handicap.

While Congaree made all but one of his 25 starts on dirt, Sangaree never competed on the surface until this year, finishing second in both the 1 1/8-mile Birdstone on August 4 at Saratoga Race Course and Grade 3, seven-furlong Bold Ruler on November 6 at Aqueduct, his two most recent starts.

Sangaree was acquired by Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable when it purchased the assets of Stonerside Farm, the owner of Congaree, in 2008. Darley kept Sangaree, who was winless in four starts at the time, in Southern California with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Competing over the circuit's synthetic surfaces, Sangaree's best efforts came in 2010, winning a minor stakes at Santa Anita and finishing second in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap, Grade 2 Californian, and Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap. He joined Saeed bin Suroor's Godolphin string late last year and made three starts in Dubai over Meydan's synthetic surface, finishing out of the money in two group stakes starts and reporting home second in a handicap.

This spring, Sangaree's connections sent the 6-year-old back to the United States with the intention of giving him a full campaign on dirt, but circumstances have hindered their plans.

"A couple of races didn't fill in the summer at Belmont and we ran him once on the grass [a sixth in the Rob 'n Gin overnight stakes in July]," said Rick Mettee, assistant to bin Suroor. "The idea always was to try him on the dirt this year. He had always worked well on dirt."

Physical issues have also caused him to miss dirt races.

"We were pointing for a race [at Saratoga] but then he shed a frog and wasn't able to run up there," said Mettee. "Then we had him in the Kelso [October 1] and he was coughing before that. We finally got him back in [the Bold Ruler] off three months. He ran a pretty good race the other day; I don't think that was his best race. For seven furlongs off a layoff, that was a pretty good run from him, and it should set him up well."

Because Sangaree is lightly raced on dirt, Mettee believes the horse has room to improve, even at the age of 6.

"He's still a fresh horse," said Mettee. "Even though he's at the end of his 6-year-old year, he's a big, strong horse and still should have good races in him. His best dirt races look like they are a little better than even his best synthetic runs, if you just go by the numbers."

Mettee believes Sangaree is well suited for the Cigar Mile, which will be contested around one turn.

"A Grade 1 is probably pushing it a little bit, but in a small field you take a shot," said Mettee. "A one-turn mile, [jockey] Rajiv [Maragh] believes, is always going to be his best race. [Maragh] has been telling us all year that the one-turn mile is what he really wants to do. That's why we were disappointed we couldn't run him in [the Kelso]."

 

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