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To Honor And Serve Solid Favorite in Cigar Mile

Inaugurated in 1988, the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap quickly established itself as one of the most significant events on the nation’s racing calendar, and Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack, seven horses will be seeking to write their own unique history in its 21st running.


The $250,000 race, the centerpiece of the Big A’s HolidayFest, will be replayed on an MSG+ telecast from 7 - 7:30 p.m. Saturday and feature Jason Blewitt, Eric Donovan, Richard Migliore, Andy Serling, and Maggie Wolfendale.


Originally dubbed the NYRA Mile, the race was renamed in 1997 in honor of Cigar, who won the 1994 edition en route to the first of his two Horse of the Year titles. His Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott, has not won the race since it was renamed, but will be represented Saturday by multiple graded stakes winner To Honor and Serve.


“It would be a great honor to win a race named after such a great horse,” said Mott. “It was an honor when they decided to rename it after Cigar as it was an important part of his winning streak.”


To Honor and Serve, who won last year’s Grade 2 Remsen and Grade 2 Nashua at Aqueduct, was considered a leading candidate for this year’s Triple Crown, but after a pair of third-place finishes in Florida was given a break until the summer. Since his return, he is 2-0-0 from four starts, including a victory in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby, and he enters the Cigar Mile off a seventh-place finish, beaten 3 ½ lengths, behind stablemate Drosselmeyer in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic.


“Shortening back from 1 ¼ miles to a mile is not usually an easy task, but it’s possible,” said Mott. “I know it’s a bit of a squeeze to come back after a race like that, but he’s feeling good, it’s a Grade 1, and probably the last race of the season for him.”


Jose Lezcano will ride To Honor and Serve, 7-5 on the morning line, from post position 6.


Haynesfield, the 2010 Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner who was nipped at the wire in last year’s Cigar Mile, returns in his bid to add a second Grade 1 to his already impressive resume.


Off the board in the Grade 3 Westchester and Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park and troubled by foot issues earlier this year, Haynesfield returned to win the 1 1/8-mile McMahon Adena Empire Classic at Belmont Park on October 22 following a five-month layoff.


“It would mean a lot for him to return to that level,” said Toby Sheets, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. “We are very fortunate in that his owner [Harvey Weinstein’s Turtle Bird Stable] has been so patient and is willing to give him the time.”


A winner of 10 of his 18 starts are more than $3.1 million, Haynesfield drew post position 2 and was listed at 4-1 on the morning line. Ramon Dominguez rides.


Trainer Todd Pletcher has entered Caixa Eletronica and Calibrachoa, both of whom were previously entered in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap on Thanksgiving Day. Caixa Eletronica, 5-0-4 from 11 starts this year, including a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler, will likely run in the Cigar Mile while Bold Ruler victor Calibrachoa’s status remains up in the air.


“I think the distance is fine for Caixa Eletronica; it’s probably where he is best suited,” said Pletcher’s assistant, Whit Beckman. “The way he ran in the seven-furlong race [Bold Ruler], he was coming at the end.”


Cornelio Velasquez is named aboard Calibrachoa, who drew post position 3, while John Velazquez will ride Caixa Eletronica, who will leave from post position 5. The Repole Stable entry is 5-2 on the morning line.


Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, who won the 1996 Cigar Mile with Gold Fever, will saddle Stuart Janney, III’s Hymn Book on Saturday. The 5-year-old Arch gelding was most recently a 2 ¼-length winner of the Firethorn overnight stakes at Belmont Park on October 20.


Alan Garcia will ride Hymn Book, 8-1 on the morning line, from post position 4.


Sangaree, a 6-year-old half-brother to 2002-03 Cigar Mile winner Congaree, enters the race off a runner-up finish in the Bold Ruler, his second start on conventional dirt.


“A Grade 1 is probably pushing it a little bit, but in a small field you take a shot,” said Rick Mettee, assistant to Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor. “A one-turn mile [jockey Rajiv Maragh] believes is going to be his best race.”


At 5-1 on the morning line, Sangaree drew post position 7.


Completing the field is Pretty Boy Freud, second in the New York Stallion Series at the Big A on November 13.


The field for the Grade 1, $250,000 Cigar Mile Handicap:

Program No.









Calibrachoa (KY)

C H Velasquez


T A Pletcher




Caixa Eletronica (KY)

J R Velazquez


T A Pletcher




Pretty Boy Freud (NY)

I Ortiz, Jr.


L O'Brien




Haynesfield (NY)

R A Dominguez


S M Asmussen




Hymn Book (KY)

A Garcia


C R McGaughey III




To Honor and Serve (KY)

J Lezcano


W I Mott




Sangaree (KY)

R Maragh


S bin Suroor





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Older Comments about To Honor And Serve Solid Favorite in Cigar Mile...

Another G-1 winner for Berni. The A.P. Indy line just keeps producing top horses.
Impressive win by To Honor and Serve, another 3 year old that looks to be better next year. 2012 could be a great year if everyone stays healthy.
Inaugurated during the jockey strike right before the Breeder;s Cup that year when greedy owners wanted to reduce jockeys take on wiinning a race bewlow theri normal percentage
has the correct running style
I really don't like horses that race after the classic....especially in the Cigar Mile. Congaree was an exception because he was an exceptional animal. There are no Congarees in this field (ironically enough his son is though). To Honor and Serve is the most talented and he loves the track...but him and Haynesfield will probably go hard at each other on the front end and set it up for a closer. CAIXA always runs a credible race anywhere from 6F to 9F. This is probably his optimal distance so I look for him to win it!distance
love honor big time ..if you watch the breeders cup race he never got near the rail...
Should be Honors to loose. I like Haynesfield though with Dominguez in the irons

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