Early look at Cigar Mile 2019 contenders and pretenders

December 03, 2019 06:24pm
Early look at Cigar Mile 2019 contenders and pretenders
Photo: Courtesy of NYRA
Maximum Security makes his second start off a three-month layoff in Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. If successful, he could gain momentum and lock up the Eclipse Award for 3-year-old males.

But the race is no cakewalk with Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Spun to Run a probable entry along with promising Chad Brown runners in Looking at Bikinis and Network Effect.

The final entries aren't expected to change much from the lineup discussed here with an early look at main contenders and pretenders.

Top-tier contenders

Maximum Security
This is an exceptional horse with almost no flaws. Not only did Maximum Security cross the wire first in the Kentucky Derby, he legitimately won the Florida Derby (G1) and Haskell (G1). After a minor illness, he returned in the Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) at Belmont to win easily by 1 ¾ lengths over Tale of Silence. He can also set the pace or lay off depending on the post position. With an Eclipse Award on the line, expect a big effort.

Spun to Run
Clearly, Spun to Run is an improved horse compared to the one who finished 9 ¼ lengths behind Maximum Security off the bench in the Haskell. He developed later in the summer, taking the Smarty Jones Stakes (G3) before a close fifth-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1). Afterward, Spun to Run broke out with a fast 6 ¾-length win in the M.P. Ballezzi Appreciation Mile and took the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile in wire-to-wire fashion. But did he hit his peak? Also, it is no small task to tackle Maximum Security.

Other win contenders

Network Effect:
 He returned off a long layoff to win a one-mile allowance at Aqueduct by a half-length over a stubborn Airtouch. Given Network Effect's runner-up finishes in the Remsen Stakes (G2) and Nashua Stakes (G3) last year, the ceiling is probably high for this lightly-raced Brown runner. He might need some pace help, however, and both Maximum Security and Spun to Run are quality types who don't figure to back up after cutting fast fractions.

Looking at Bikinis
First of all, cross out the two-turn losses in the Curlin Stakes and Travers (G1). This colt's best game is a one-turn mile, and he gets his favored configuration in this spot. After his flop in the Travers, he returned in a seven-furlong Keeneland allowance and won by 4 ½ lengths. The waters obviously deepen, but he could move forward as well.

Superfecta players

Tale of Silence
Once in a while, Tale of Silence hits the board at longshot odds. For example, he finished second to Maximum Security in the Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) at 23-1. He also clunked in for fourth in the Kelso Handicap (G2) at 12-1. A horse like this is never going to win against true Grade 1-level runners, but he could make the superfecta interesting.

This veteran went off form in mid-season and received time off. He then returned with a runner-up finish in the Phoenix Stakes (G2) and third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Stretching out to one mile is a huge question mark, though, and he isn't much of a win machine outside of Oaklawn Park. 

Pat On the Back
: Pat On the Back failed to back up his hard-fought Kelso Handicap (G2) victory in the Empire Classic Handicap, finishing a disappointing third at short odds. He also ran fifth in this race last year against an arguably weaker field. The main players in this race are probably too much for him, but with the right trip and best effort, a third or fourth is possible. 

True Timber
He is capable of hitting the board in softer graded stakes races, as he did run third in the Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) and Kelso Handicap (G2). Plus, he ran second in this race last year, only losing to Patternrecognition by ¾ of a length. But this is a different Cigar Mile with star players in Maximum Security and Spun to Run. If he fires, an underneath spot is his limit.

Unlikely factors

Bal Harbour
The runner-up finish in the Woodward Stakes (G1) is a good effort. Not only did Bal Harbour run second, but he crossed the wire in front of the fourth-place Tom's d'Etat, the recent Clark Handicap (G1) winner. Bal Harbour took a step backward when running fourth in the Fayette Stakes (G2), 7 ½ lengths behind. He's tough to endorse nearing the end of a long campaign and on a seven-race losing streak.

Here is a lesser talented version of Discreet Lover. While Forewarned did win last time, it came at Mahoning Valley in the Best of Ohio Endurance Stakes. Before that, he ran third to Spun to Run in the M.P. Ballezzi Appreciation Mile, 10 ¾ lengths behind. His third-place finish in the Parx Dirt Mile is a better effort, as he ended up only two lengths behind Coal Front. With some pace help and a lucky trip, he could pass tired horses and pick up fourth. But the line has to be drawn somewhere in the exotics.


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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