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To Honor And Serve Cruises in Cigar Mile

Favored To Honor and Serve made a triumphant return to Aqueduct Racetrack Saturday afternoon, taking command at the top of the stretch and going on to an impressive 1 ¾-length victory in the Grade 1, $250,000 Cigar Mile Handicap.

Now 3-for-3 at the Big A after having won the Grade 2 Remsen and the Grade 2 Nashua last fall, To Honor and Serve quickly went to the front under jockey Jose Lezcano through an opening quarter-mile in 23.05. Yielding to Calibrachoa on the backstretch, the son of Bernardini stayed just a half-length behind as the half went in 45.61, then moved up to challenge for the lead at the top of the stretch. Gaining command approaching the eighth pole, To Honor and Serve was never seriously challenged as he hit the wire in 1:33.89, well clear of the late-running Hymn Book.

"I had plenty of horse turning for home, I tapped him on the shoulder, and he changed leads and took off," said winning jockey Jose Lezcano of To Honor and Serve, the lone 3-year-old in the field of six. "I'm very happy with the way he finished."

The even-money favorite, To Honor and Serve returned $4.10 for a $2 win bet as he earned his first Grade 1 victory and fulfilled the promise he showed last fall as a juvenile. Considered a leading contender for this year's Triple Crown series on the strength of his Remsen and Nashua victories, To Honor and Serve was taken out of training by Hall of Famer Bill Mott following a pair of third-place finishes in Florida, and did not return to racing until the summer.

The Live Oak Plantation color-bearer won an optional claimer at Saratoga Race Course in his second start following the layoff, and next posted an impressive win in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby on September 24. He was then seventh, beaten only 3 ½ lengths, behind his stablemate, 2010 Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer, in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

"What started out as a very slow year has ended up good," said Mott, best-known as the trainer of two-time Horse of the Year Cigar, for whom the race is named. "This is probably one of the last stakes we'll run in for the year and it's a great way to top it off. Had we won the [Breeders' Cup] Classic, maybe we wouldn't have come here, but I looked at it and hung around Churchill for a couple of days and watched him and he looked like he came out of it good. He's been really eating up good and it didn't look like we hurt his feelings too much in the Classic."

Racing's newest millionaire, To Honor and Serve earned $150,000 with the victory, which extended his earnings to $1,146,340 and his record to 6-1-2 from 11 starts.

"I thought he was professional before this race, but this certainly puts the right markings on his calendar," said his owner, Live Oak Plantation's Charlotte Weber. "He's going to go home to Live Oak [in Florida] and rest for a little bit. After his rest he will go back to Billy [Mott] and we will figure out his campaign for next year. I can't see any reason not to race him next year. [Having fun] is what this game is all about."

Hymn Book, who rallied from last, was 2 ¼ lengths ahead of Calibrachoa, with Haynesfield, Caixa Eletronica and Sangaree completing the order of finish.

"I thought maybe there was a chance they might go a little bit quicker, especially the first quarter," said Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, trainer of the runner-up. "I thought he ran a good race. The winner is a good horse and is a deserving winner; today, we were second-best."



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Older Comments about To Honor And Serve Cruises in Cigar Mile...

How good will THAS be next year? Look forward to seeing in 2012.
Bravo Bill Mott!

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