Bribon Seeks Cigar Mile Success

Bribon takes the 2009 Met Mile
Saturday’s 22nd edition of the $250,000 Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile at Aqueduct Racetrack has attracted its customarily contentious field for the final Grade 1 race of the year in New York, in which 7-year-old Bribon has the difficult task of attempting to avenge his narrow defeats in 2008 and 2009.


Beaten less than a length by eventual Sprint Champion Kodiak Kowboy when second in last year’s running, Bribon was a close-up third behind Tale of Ekati and Harlem Rocker in the previous year’s race, his first Grade 1 appearance in North America. The French-bred Mark of Esteem gelding went on to win the Grade 3 Westchester and the Grade 1 Met Mile in 2009, and this year won the Grade 2 True North as his connections pondered a possible start in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.


Rather than put up the $180,000 supplemental fee to run, trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Derrick Smith elected to skip the trip to Kentucky and point toward the Cigar Mile, for which the gelding prepped with a victory in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler on October 30.


“I think the Cigar Mile is always a very difficult race to win,” said Pletcher, who saddled Purge, Lion Tamer, and Left Bank to win the 2005, 2004 and 2001 editions. “It’s the last significant Grade 1 on the East coast, and always attracts the best sprinters, the best middle-distance horses, and horses backing up as well. Given that, I think Bribon fits in very well.”


John Velazquez rides Bribon, the 3-1 second choice on the morning line, from post position 3.


Jumping into the fray as well is a quartet of Breeders’ Cup veterans looking to end their 2010 campaigns on a high note. Girolamo, Vineyard Haven, and Haynesfield  – Grade 1 winners all – as well as Musket Man, who came within a nose of winning the Grade 1 Carter at the Big A during the spring, will try to regroup in the Cigar Mile after disappointing outings at Churchill Downs earlier this month.


Vosburgh winner Girolamo placed 11th as the favorite in the Sprint, Vineyard Haven came home sixth in the Dirt Mile, and Musket Man was seventh in the Classic, in which Haynesfield, winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, finished 11th.


Godolphin Racing assistant trainer Rick Mettee is hopeful both Girolamo and Vineyard Haven will get better trips in the Cigar Mile, for which the entry was tabbed as the 5-2 choice on the morning line.


“[In the Breeders’ Cup] Girolamo got an inside draw in a big field,” said Mettee. “Hopefully the mile will suit him a little better.


“Vineyard Haven was drawn outside and stalked a very fast pace,” he added. “He’s another one who should pull a better trip.”


Girolamo, with Alan Garcia up, drew the rail while Vineyard Haven will leave from post position 4 under David Cohen.


The Classic marked the first start outside his home state for the New York-bred Haynesfield, who is 9-1-1 in 13 starts at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.


“He didn’t run at all in the Breeders’ Cup,” said assistant Toby Sheets, who oversees trainer Steve Asmussen’s New York string at Belmont Park. “This is the last Grade 1 of the year, and as long as he’s doing well, he deserves to run. He’s very happy to be home.”


Javier Castellano rides the 4-year-old Speightstown colt, 7-2 on the morning line, from post 5.


Musket Man’s Classic performance marked the first time he has finished worse than third in 15 career starts. Second to Quality Road in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap in his only start at a flat mile, the 4-year-old Yonaguska colt was listed at 5-1 and will leave from post position 8 with Rajiv Maragh in the irons.


“A mile to 1 1/16 miles is his best distance, but we decided to take a shot in the Classic,” said Derek Ryan, who trains Musket Man for Eric Fein. “He came out of the race well, and this is the last Grade 1 race.”


Friend Or Foe, one of two 3-year-olds in the field along with Soaring Empire, ventures back into open company after posting an eye-catching five-length victory against fellow New York-breds in the Empire Classic at Belmont Park on October 23. Winner of his first three races, Friend Or Foe was fourth in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy in his first start around two turns, and then sixth after a rocky trip in the Grade 1 Travers.


Around one turn, the Friends Lake colt is 4-for-4.


“I wouldn’t trade places with anyone,” said John Kimmel, who trains Friend Or Foe for Chester and Mary Broman. “He’s doing great, we drew well with post position 7, and I think he deserves a shot.”


Alex Solis rides Friend Or Foe, 8-1 on the morning line.


Rounding out the field are the second and third-place finishers in the Bold Ruler –

Jersey Town, who will attempt to give trainer Barclay Tagg and owner Charles Fipke, who won the 2008 Cigar Mile with Tale of Ekati, their second victory in the race, and Half Metal Jacket.


Prog. No.  PP






1                    1

Girolamo (KY)

A Garcia


S bin Suroor


1a                  4

Vineyard Haven (FL)

D Cohen


S bin Suroor


2                    2

Soaring Empire  

Edgar Prado


C Gambolati


3                    3

Bribon (FR)

J Velazquez


T Pletcher


4                    5                 

Haynesfield (NY)

J Castellano


S M Asmussen


5                    6

Jersey Town (KY)

C H Velasquez


B Tagg


6                    7

Friend Or Foe (NY)

A O Solis


J C Kimmel


7                    8

Musket Man (KY)

R Maragh


D S Ryan


8                    9

Half Metal Jacket (FL)

F Jara


R R Rodriguez




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