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Cigar!

Though His Winning Streak Ended at 16 Races, Cigar Remains the Very Model of the Modern Major Thoroughbred
John Lee
From the Print Edition:
Danny DeVito, Winter 96

(continued from page 6)

"There's so much excitement around you, you find yourself slipping into a shell, this little vacuum," Mott says. "People come up and talk to you and you respond on some level, but you're so keyed in on your horse on the track, you get tunnel vision."

Cigar broke well and moved smoothly into striking position. He hit the top of the longest stretch he'd ever face and worked his way past two horses to take the lead. But at about the point where Cigar's normal stretch run would be ending he throttled down, just as Soul of the Matter was revving up. The track announcer picked up the action:

"There's a furlong to go and its a duel to the line....Soul of the Matter on the outside of Cigar and Cigar is digging deep...he's never had to fight harder...he's coming back! It's going to be Cigar by three parts of a length!... This horse had to dig deep. He came, he has taken on the world and he has conquered."

"By the eighth pole I thought he was beaten," Mott says of the tightest finish in Cigar's streak. "If I watch 100 races like that, the other horse would have won 95 of them."

Bailey agrees. "That's the race I'm most proud of," he says. "All that he overcame in that race! It was like he did it for America. A lot of people got on his bandwagon then."

Back home, the next two races went according to form as Cigar drew clear to win the Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs (No. 15) and the Arlington Citation Challenge in Illinois (No. 16), a race cooked up to showcase Cigar's bid to tie Citation's record.

Cigar tied Citation but he couldn't pass him. In the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 10, Cigar got seduced into an overheated speed duel with the Richard Mandella-trained Siphon. By the top of the stretch Cigar had won the lead, but it would cost him the race as the late-running Dare and Go, another Mandella trainee, breezed by. Running on empty, Cigar still held second. The crowd fell silent until Cigar jogged back to be unsaddled and then gave the fallen hero a heartfelt ovation.

"The race was a real letdown for the public and a real downer for the horse," Paulson says. "It was the first time in 17 races he didn't get to pose for pictures afterwards. Later he wouldn't eat, and even though he loves peppermints he wouldn't take one."

Bailey says, "He knew, he knew. He took the loss personally. He was dejected."

Tom Durkin sees it this way: "Cigar wants to run. He's so competitive he wants to get into it, almost to a fault, to the point where it exposes his Achilles' heel. In the Pacific Classic he just got involved in the fight too soon and for too long."


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