Cigar Mile Handicap 2021: Odds, picks, preview and more

Cigar Mile Handicap 2021: Odds, picks, preview and more
Photo: NYRA

A contentious field of eight will line up Saturday to contest the New York Racing Association’s final Grade 1 stakes of 2021.

Americanrevolution is the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap (G1). Post time from Aqueduct is 4:13 p.m. EST, with TVG showing the event for 3-and-up runners.

Click here for Aqueduct entries and results.

The Cigar Mile highlights a card with four total graded stakes, including the $250,000 Remsen Stakes (G2) and $250,000 Demoiselle Stakes (G2). Those races pay out qualifying points toward the 2022 Kentucky Derby and 2022 Kentucky Oaks, respectively.

Americanrevolution brings a 6: 4-0-1 record into the Cigar Mile, his second attempt at Grade 1 company. Two starts back, he crossed third Sept. 25 at Parx in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1).

Todd Pletcher trains the 3-year-old Constitution colt, who owns three New York-bred stakes wins this season, including last out against older runners at Belmont Park in the Empire Classic Handicap. Americanrevolution will have jockey Luis Saez up Saturday.

Pletcher’s other starter is Following Sea (5-1), another 3-year-old competitor. He beat older rivals in Belmont’s Vosburgh Handicap (G2) and was third Nov. 6 at Del Mar in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Independence Hall (7-2) makes what connections have said will be his career finale Saturday. The Michael McCarthy trainee scored a commanding win Oct. 30 at Keeneland in the Fayette Stakes (G2) and can go to stud as a Grade 1 hero with a Cigar Mile triumph.

Richard Baltas trains Ginobili (7-2), runner-up to Life Is Good on Nov. 6 in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. A Grade 2 winner, he has made only two of his 14 career starts outside of California.

Code of Honor (6-1) is the only Cigar Mile starter with Grade 1 wins on his ledger, having taken the 2019 Travers Stakes at Saratoga and Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont. He was second last out to Independence Hall in the Fayette.

Here is a look at the field for the 2021 Cigar Mile (trainer and jockey in parentheses) with morning-line odds:

1. Following Sea (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez), 5-1

2. Plainsman (Brad Cox, Manny Franco), 12-1

3. Americanrevolution (Todd Pletcher, Luis Saez), 5-2

4. Code of Honor (Shug McGaughey, Tyler Gaffalione), 6-1

5. Independence Hall (Michael McCarthy, Javier Castellano), 7-2

6. Ginobili (Richard Baltas, Drayden Van Dyke), 7-2

7. Olympiad (Bill Mott, Irad Ortiz Jr.), 10-1

8. Pipeline (Chad Brown, Jose Ortiz), 15-1

TimeformUS’ pace projections show Ginobili under jockey Drayden Van Dyke and Following Sea with rider John Velazquez battling for the early lead. Morning-line favorite Americanrevolution is projected to settle toward the back of the field.

Cigar Mile links

Horse Racing Nation staffers make their picks for the 2021 Cigar Mile Handicap.

Matt Shifman provides odds and analysis for the Cigar Mile, picking one of trainer Todd Pletcher’s entries as his top choice.

Reinier Macatangay handicaps the Cigar Mile, noting why he thinks selecting multiple horses for horizontal wagers seems more logical than pinpointing one horse.

Read why Caleb Knight thinks Americanrevolution is a vulnerable favorite for the Cigar Mile.

Cigar Mile runners Following Sea and Ginobili are among J. Keeler Johnson’s five horses to watch this weekend at Aqueduct and Los Alamitos.

A Cigar Mile victory would boost future stallion value for Following Sea, who runs for powerhouse breeding operation Spendthrift Farm. A win would also be the first in Grade 1 flight among Runhappy’s progeny.

Pletcher, who saddles Americanrevolution and Following Sea in the Cigar Mile, spoke with Tom Pedulla for a Barn Tour to discuss seven prominent runners.

Brian Zipse asks if Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile runner-up Ginobili can bring his “A” game cross-country to “The Big A” on Saturday.

This week on HorseCenter, hosts Shifman and Zipse offer Cigar Mile, Remsen Stakes, and Demoiselle Stakes selections.

On the latest edition of the Ron Flatter Racing Pod, Anthony Stabile of NYRA previews the Cigar Mile card, while Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale discusses his Kentucky Derby Future Wager bets.

Jockey Joel Rosario was tabbed to ride Olympiad in the Cigar Mile for trainer Bill Mott, but a broken rib will instead cause him to miss multiple weeks. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. will now get the mount.

Other Saturday stakes

Here is a look at other graded stakes races taking place Saturday across the U.S. All post times are EST, and all will be shown on TVG.

Related: Saturday plays: Selections for the Cigar Mile Pick 4

2:43 p.m. – $250,000 Go for Wand Handicap (G3), 3-and-up fillies and mares, one mile, Aqueduct

Lady Rocket (8-5) owns two stakes wins this season for trainer Brad Cox, and now attempts to make the grade at Aqueduct. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. will pilot the 4-year-old Tale of the Cat filly, winner of Belmont Park’s Pumpkin Pie Stakes on Oct. 31. Horacio DePaz trains Sharp Starr (7-2), who enters off a Belmont score Oct. 30 in the Empire Distaff Handicap. Miss Marissa (4-1) is a two-time Grade 2 winner for trainer James Ryerson, including a Delaware Handicap (G2) victory four starts back on July 10.

3:14 p.m. – $250,000 Remsen Stakes (G2), 2-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles, Aqueduct

Mo Donegal (8-5) makes his stakes debut for trainer Todd Pletcher off a maiden-breaking effort Oct. 21 at Belmont in his second start. Ortiz Jr. gets the call on the Uncle Mo colt. Chad Brown trains Zandon (5-2), who returns for the first time since winning his debut Oct. 9 at Belmont. Judge Davis (5-1) has a graded start under his belt, running third Nov. 7 at Belmont in the Nashua Stakes (G3) for trainer Shug McGaughey.

3:43 p.m. – $250,000 Demoiselle Stakes (G2), 2-year-old fillies, 1 1/8 miles, Aqueduct

Nest (2-1) is another talented prospect for Pletcher, winning on debut at Belmont before finishing third over the same course Nov. 5 in the Tempted Stakes. Ortiz Jr. rides the Curlin filly. Christophe Clement trains Tap the Faith (3-1), a debut winner Nov. 7 at Belmont. Magic Circle (7-2) was second in the Tempted Stakes for trainer Rudy Rodriguez.

6:58 p.m. – $300,000 Starlet Stakes (G1), 2-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 miles, Los Alamitos

Grace Adler (9-5) seeks a second Grade 1 win already in her career after taking the Del Mar Debutante (G1) on Sept. 5. Jockey Flavien Prat rides for trainer Bob Baffert, whose three entries are ineligible for the Road to the 2022 Kentucky Oaks points this race offers on a 10-4-2-1 scale. Baffert conditions Eda (2-1), who enters off back-to-back stakes wins, including the Desi Arnaz on Nov. 13 at Del Mar. Cairo Memories (3-1) switches surfaces for trainer Bob Hess Jr. after running ninth Nov. 5 at Del Mar in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Cigar Mile preview

From the NYRA Press Office:

An accomplished field of eight horses will seek the calendar year’s final opportunity for Grade 1 glory on the NYRA circuit in the 32nd running of the $750,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Since its inception in 1988, a total of 11 sophomores have bested their elders in the prestigious race, which was run as the NYRA Mile prior to 1997. This year, two 3-year-olds will vie to add to that number, including the accomplished pair of Americanrevolution and Following Sea from the stable of Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher – a four-time Cigar Mile winner.

“It’s always a big race and it’s the last Grade 1 in New York for the year,” said Pletcher who saddled previous Cigar Mile victors Left Bank (2001), Lion Tamer (2004), Purge (2005) and Stay Thirsty (2012). “I’m not surprised that it’s attracted a nice field.”

Owned by WinStar Farm and CHC Inc. and bred in New York by Fred W. Hertrich III and John D. Fielding, Americanrevolution makes his return to graded company after finishing third two starts back in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) on Sept. 25 at Parx, which was won by Hot Rod Charlie over Midnight Bourbon.

Americanrevolution, one of two sons of leading third-crop sire Constitution in the Cigar Mile, has garnered three stakes victories against his Empire State-bred counterparts by a combined 24 lengths.

After a 7¼-length romp in the New York Derby on July 19 at Finger Lakes, he parlayed that impressive effort into the Albany on Aug. 27 at Saratoga, which he won by five lengths. Following the next-out Pennsylvania Derby, Americanrevolution garnered a field-best 108 Beyer Speed Figure when besting older New York-bred company by 11 ¾ lengths in the nine-furlong Empire Classic on Oct. 30 over a sloppy and sealed Belmont Park main track.

“He’s been very consistent, and he’s accomplished a lot in a short period of time,” Pletcher said. “He’s made a lot of progress. It’s another class test and he’s dropping back in distance which is always a challenge, but he deserves a chance.”

Pletcher, who also conditioned Constitution, expressed pride in seeing another one of his barn’s former standouts go on to have a successful stud career. 

“He’s on his way to becoming one of the top stallions in the country. He gets a little of everything - sprinters, routers, dirt, turf, fillies, colts,” Pletcher said.

Luis Saez will retain the mount from post 3.

Spendthrift Farm homebred Following Sea was a troubled third in the last-out Breeders’ Cup Sprint and seeks his second graded stakes triumph in Saturday’s engagement. The son of second crop sire Runhappy was victorious in wire-to-wire fashion against multiple graded stakes winner Firenze Fire in the six-furlong Vosburgh (G2) on Oct. 9 at Belmont.

Following Sea, who has never finished off the board in seven lifetime starts, was a distant third in his lone pair of starts past 6½ furlongs when completing the trifecta in the Haskell Stakes (G1) at nine furlongs and the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) going seven furlongs.

He broke his maiden by 5¾ lengths at second asking in a six-furlong maiden special weight in April at Oaklawn Park ahead of an open-length score against winners in a first-level Belmont allowance two months later.

“He still has to prove himself going further,” Pletcher said. “He was impressive in the Vosburgh and his allowance race and in his maiden win sprinting. He’s always given us the impression of a horse that will run further, and he’s certainly built like one that would. I haven’t had too many Runhappy (progeny), but with him being a sprint champion I think some people expected him to come out sooner than they really wanted to. I wouldn’t be surprised that as they mature a little bit, they will continue to improve.”

Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Following Sea from post 1 as he and Pletcher seek their first collaborative Cigar Mile coup since joining forces 20 years ago with Left Bank.

While Americanrevolution and Following Sea are seeking breakthrough victories in the Cigar Mile, the one-turn mile will be a swan song for multiple graded stakes-winner Independence Hall, who returns to Aqueduct for the first time since capturing the 2020 Jerome.

Trained by Pletcher’s former assistant Michael McCarthy, Independence Hall arrives off a 7¼-length runaway victory at 1 1/8 miles in the Fayette (G2) on Oct. 30 over a sloppy and sealed Keeneland main track, where he registered a career-best 105 Beyer.

The son of Constitution garnered plenty of warranted attention in only his second career start, when capturing the Nashua (G3) in November 2019 at Aqueduct by 12¾ lengths for former trainer Mike Trombetta.

“His race in the Fayette was very good. He loved the slop,” McCarthy said. “Now he's going back to Aqueduct, the site of one of his most impressive victories, so we feel good about it. I'm excited about the turnback in distance for him.”

McCarthy said Independence Hall, who was fractious in the paddock prior to his Jerome victory, does not display such mannerisms around the barn.

“He's a very talented horse,” McCarthy said. “A complete gentleman around the barn so a little atypical the way he acts in the paddock compared to around the barn. He's very classy. I don't think there's a better-looking horse on the grounds. He's very beautiful.”

Hall of Famer Javier Castellano seeks his third Cigar Mile win in six years aboard Independence Hall, who breaks from post 5.

Trainer Richard Baltas will ship Ginobili cross-country, attempting to give the son of Munnings a second graded stakes triumph.

Owned by Baltas in partnership with Nick Casato’s Slum Dunk Racing, Jerry McClanahan, and Michael Nentwig, Ginobili ended a nine-race losing streak in July at Del Mar capturing a one-mile allowance optional claimer by 9¾ lengths.

He followed with a score in the Pat O’ Brien (G2) one month later at Del Mar, which offered a “win and you’re in” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, where Ginobili finished second to Life Is Good on Nov. 6 at Del Mar.

“He ran two good races at Del Mar, and I wanted to give him a little time between then and the Breeders’ Cup,” Baltas said of the spacing between starts. “We were already in the Breeders' Cup through 'win and you're in'. He ran well against maybe the best horse in the country.”

Baltas added blinkers to Ginobili for his impressive victory three starts back, which has paid back dividends for the 4-year-old gelding.

“He was the type of horse where if he's not up in the race or had horses in front or beside him, he really didn't want to go,” Baltas said. “When he broke his maiden, he was on the lead. In other races, when he was behind horses, he got disinterested. It's hard to say. So, I worked him blinkers and that's when he had that crazy race at Del Mar (on July 17) and he came back and won the Pat O'Brien.”

Drayden Van Dyke will ride from post 6.

As the lone millionaire in the race, William S. Farish’s Code of Honor boasts a field-best $2,951,320 in lifetime earnings and seeks a third Grade 1 victory for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.

During his sophomore campaign, the now 5-year-old son of Noble Mission, won the Travers (G1) at Saratoga before being elevated to victory against older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont.

This year, he captured the Phillip H. Iselin (G3) in August at Monmouth Park. He enters from a last out second to Independence Hall in the Fayette.

Although scheduled to join the 2022 stallion roster at Farish’s Lanes’ End Farm in Midway, Ky., the Cigar Mile might not be a final career start for Code of Honor.

“He’s doing very well,” said McGaughey. “He’s obviously been very good to me over the years. He’ll go to stud next year, but whether this will be his final start, we’re not sure yet.”

Tyler Gaffalione will ride from post 4.

Bill Mott will attempt a fourth victory in a race named after one of the greatest horses he has ever trained when the Hall of Famer saddles 3-year-old Olympiad.

Owned by Grandview Equine, Cheyenne Stable and LNJ Foxwoods, Olympiad defeated older winners last out in a first-level allowance at Keeneland going seven furlongs. He broke his maiden in October 2020 against subsequent stakes winners Caddo River and Greatest Honour travelling the same distance at Belmont Park.

“We’ve always liked him,” Mott said. “We thought last year he was one of the best two colts we had. It’s a big step up, no question.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride from post 7.

Completing the Cigar Mile lineup are Shortleaf Stable’s Plainsman (post 2, Manny Franco), who captured the Ack Ack (G3) in October at Churchill Downs two starts back for trainer Brad Cox, and John D. Gunther and Eurowest Bloodstock’s Pipeline (post 8, Jose Ortiz) who broke his maiden going seven furlongs at Saratoga two starts back and will attempt to give four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown his second Cigar Mile win.

The Cigar Mile honors Allen Paulson’s all-time great, who from 1994-96 equaled 1948 Triple Crown winner Citation’s modern-day North American record of 16 consecutive victories, a record which has since been broken twice. Cigar’s unprecedented win streak included victories in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Donn Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Oaklawn Handicap, and Pimlico Special. Trained by Mott and ridden primarily by Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, Cigar retired with nearly $10 million in lifetime earnings and resided at the Kentucky Horse Park upon his retirement until death in 2014. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2002.

The Cigar Mile is slated as the finale on Saturday’s 10-race program, which also features the $250,000 Remsen (G2), a 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying race, its female counterpart race, the $250,000 Demoiselle (G2), which offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points, and the $250,000 Go For Wand (G3) for fillies and mares going a one-turn mile. First post is 11:50 a.m. EST.

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