Cigar Mile 2016: Odds and Analysis

November 27, 2016 12:12pm
Anchor Down wins 2016 Westchester
Photo: Chelsea Durand/NYRA

The 2016 Cigar Mile (G1), which will be contested on November 26, is part of the final Super Saturday card of the year. The $500,000 one-turn mile is the last grade one race of 2016 on the NYRA circuit and is headlined by Anchor Down and Connect.

The Cigar Mile is one of my favorite races because it is named after one of my favorite horses of all time. I like that when talk about this grade one stake comes around at the end of November that every time I hear the name, Cigar, it puts a smile on face. I can’t help but think of his amazing 16 race win streak and, in my head, I get to replay Tom Durkin’s best race call ever, that of the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Hall of Famer won the NYRA Mile in 1994, which would be renamed in his honor in 1997, and was win number two in his historic streak.

The conditions of the race state that any Breeders’ Cup winner would run for an enhanced purse of $1,000,000 and that any grade one winner would enjoy a $750,000 purse. In this year’s field of ten neither of those conditions will be met. Here is my analysis of the field and the Horse Racing Nation morning line odds.

Anchor Down, [ML 9-5, 16: 5-2-2 $719,254] Now five-years-old, the son of Tapit has done his best running around one turn going a distance of a mile. He will be looking to pick up where he last left off after winning the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap on October 8 at Belmont in an impressive time of 1:32.90, that earned a BSF of 108. His Kelso victory was flattered when second pace finisher, Tamarkuz, went on to take the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Trainer Todd Pletcher skipped the Dirt Mile and pointed Anchor Down to the Cigar Mile, where he felt the gray ridgling would have his best chance to get his first grade one stakes victory.  In the Met Mile earlier in the year Anchor Down ran second behind the buzzsaw performance of Frosted. Frosted has been retired and there is not a single grade one winner in the field. The Alto Racing runner should be able to get the lead and control the pace, which could make him hard to beat. Primed for a Big Performance.

Connect, [ML 3-1, 6: 4-0-1 $950,000] The three-year-old son of Curlin is one of the two least experienced horses in the field with only six starts, five of which have come in the past six months. Since the year 2000, five sophomores have won the Cigar Mile with El Corredor 2000, Discreet Cat 2006, Daaher 2007, Tale of Ekati 2008, and To Honor and Serve 2011. Connect may have run in the least number of races, but he is the leading earner in the field, bolstered by his most recent victory in the million dollar Pennsylvania Derby (G2) with a 103 BSF. This Chad Brown runner is near perfect in 2016. His only defeat came in the Arrogate Travers, which was sandwiched between the PA Derby and the Curlin. Those two stakes victories came at nine furlongs, which has to make you wonder whether the one-turn mile is ideal? Top Notch Three-Year-Old.

Divining Rod, [ML 6-1, 12: 4-2-5 $631,604] This four-year-old son of Tapit has an impressive in the money record and appears to be on the comeback trail in 2016. Of note as a three-year-old, Divining Rod won the Lexington (G3) and followed that with a third place finish in American Pharoah’s Preakness. Since returning to the races in September after more than a year off, this Arnaud Delacour runner has two allowance wins at Parx and most recently a second place in the Fayette (G2) at Keeneland. In that race he chased a big performance from Noble Bird, but he was also 5 ¾ lengths in front of the third place horse. It appears that this dark bay colt has a chance to make some noise at Aqueduct. An Improving Colt.

Economic Model, [ML 6-1, 8: 3-3-1 $444,400] This Klaravich Stables three-year-old has an impressive record with three wins and seven out of eight in the money finishes. His biggest win was in the Easy Goer on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Since then, the Chad Brown trainee has been knocking heads with some very good horses in the Dwyer, King’s Bishop, and Bold Ruler coming out with two seconds and a third. However, only the Bold Ruler was against older horses. In the Dwyer he showed the ability to run a one-turn mile when he was a length and a quarter behind Fish Trappe Road. I feel like Economic Model will need to make a step up to win the Cigar Mile. Could Get a Piece.

Ocean Knight [ML 10-1, 9: 3-3-2 $308,600] is another son of Curlin in the small Cigar Mile field. This Stonestreet and Kiaran McLaughlin runner was most recently third behind Anchor Down and Tamarkuz in the Kelso. Ocean Knight has wanted to be on the lead in his last few starts, but could not keep up in Kelso, and thus he will be up against it again in the Cigar. He has not lived up to the promise that came when he won his first two races including the Sam F. Davis (G3) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby in 2015. This is no easy spot for the four-year-old and he will need to show a lot more stamina to make an impact in this grade one. In a Tough Spot.


Realm, [ML 15-1, 8: 2-2-2 $136,455] Realm has picked a very tough spot for his first start in stakes company. He had a career best effort for Barclay Tagg when he won a one-turn mile allowance at Aqueduct last time out. The final time was not particularly impressive, but the margin of victory over the field of nine was 5 ¼ lengths. His sire, Haynesfield, ran in the Cigar Mile and finished fourth in 2011 and second in 2010 behind Jersey Town, a former Tagg runner. First Try in Stakes Company.

Tale of S'avall [ML 15-1, 9: 2-1-1 $244,167] This Barclay Tagg three-year-old is trying to win his first stake in the Cigar Mile. He is hoping to follow in the steps of his sire, Tale of Ekati, who won this race in 2008 in his sophomore season. Tale of S’avall had a confidence building allowance win last time out running a one-turn mile at Belmont after previously battling in graded stakes company for six of seven starts. Maybe the recent victory will help this one handle the tougher level of competition. Will Need a Career Best Effort.


Threefiveindia, [ML 10-1, 6: 3-1-1 $185,367] This son of Street Hero is the third and least accomplished entry from the barn of Chad Brown. As a three-year-old he checks in on the bottom of the experience list with his stable mate Connect. His only bad career race came last year in his second start in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. Aside from that, Threefiveindia has two allowance wins and most recently he has a third and a second while sprinting in the Gallant Bob (G3) and the Bold Ruler (G3). Those graded placings deserve respect, but this race is certainly a tough spot in which to stretch out to a mile. Talented, but a lot to Ask.


War Story, [ML 20-1, 15: 3-3-2 $459,395] This Loooch Stables runner has changed barns frequently and is currently being training out of Parx by Mario Serey, Jr. War Story showed promise as a three-year-old in 2015, when he hit the board in all three of the Fair Grounds prep races for the Kentucky Derby. Since then the connections have taken on the best in races like this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pacific Classic and last year’s BC Dirt Mile. Sandwiched in between those ambitious starts has been an allowance victory at Thistledown and a second place in the 2016 PA Champions Stake on the Pennsylvania Derby undercard. War Story is certainly up against it in the Cigar Mile, but he has lots of experience running against the best horses in the country. Hard to Predict His Performance.

Mylute [ML 30-1, 32: 5-5-6 $948,272] The six-year-old was a last minute addition to the field. This son of Midnight Lute has had a long and successful career, but he has yet to win a stakes race. His four most recent victories have come in allowance company. In between wins trainer Ralph Nicks has had Mylute competing in restricted and grade three stakes where he has been competitive with third and fourth place finishes typical. It’s a short trip to the Big A from his Belmont Park barn, but he’ll be in a very tough spot when he arrives. Hard to Like Here.


Anchor Down and Connect clearly have the best resumes in this field of ten, although questions remain about both. Anchor Down has not been able to win two stakes races in a row in his career and Connect may not be at his best in a one-turn mile. If one of the top two is off their game, then Economic Model and Divining Rod look to be the horses to step into the exacta.


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Meet Matt Shifman

Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs, Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.

Since 2012, Matt has been a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.

Recently, Matt helped launch Derby Day Racing, a new 2-year-old racing partnership, that just purchased a promising Lookin At Lucky filly named Sooner Schooner.

You may also know Matt by his Twitter, Facebook, and HRN screen nameAndyScoggin.

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