Though His Winning Streak Ended at 16 Races, Cigar Remains the Very Model of the Modern Major Thoroughbred
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A couple of weeks later, Saratoga Race course tried to cheer up Cigar by holding a day in his honor. Cigar put in an easy public workout between races, then jogged back to a photographer-dense winner's circle to accept the keys to the city of Saratoga Springs from its mayor in the form of an enormous key-shaped oatmeal cookie.
The next morning, Mott was back at the barn pondering the future while munching on a hunk of Cigar's cookie key. He knows Cigar will soon retire from racing to live the life of an equine Casanova in the breeding shed.
Mott admits that, when it's all over, he'll feel a little relieved...and a little lonely. "Someday I'll be out here with four mules who can't beat anything and then I'll be looking for someone to talk to," the trainer says.
Though he's a magnet for good mounts, Jerry Bailey knows there will never be another Cigar. "I wish everyone could watch him from the moment he goes to be saddled. He's cool, calm and collected, but then he swells up and becomes this super horse. When I'm on him in the gate, I feel like I'm sitting on a balloon, waiting for the gate to spring open so I can let the air out like a jet.
"I'm not overly religious, but I feel that God put this horse here for a reason, and put him with people who let folks around the country and around the world see him run."
Five weeks after the streak ended, Bailey and Cigar got right back on the winning track by capturing the $500,000 Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park. After the win, the jockey made a flying dismount from Cigar's back and stuck the landing in Belmont Park's winner's circle. By voice vote, the crowd scored it a perfect 10.
Bailey was asked to condense his emotions into one word.
"Redemption," was his reply.
Meanwhile, Bill Mott, stepping out of character, led the cheers, rallying the emotions of one of racing's feel-good moments.
"The crowd got into it as much as I did. Everyone shared in it. It felt pretty darned good," Mott says. "And I'll give you 10-to-one Cigar will eat a peppermint tonight."
Two more races remained on Cigar's dance card: the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Oct. 5 and the $4 million Breeder's Cup Classic at Woodbine in Toronto on Oct. 26. That should mark the end of his career as a racehorse and the start of his career as a stallion.
"I have a firm offer of $30 million from Japanese breeders for Cigar, but I'm not going to sell him. I think he belongs in America," Paulson says. "Thirty million will get you thinking, but I have a lot of beautiful ladies in my barn who would love to meet Cigar."
John Lee is a New York-based writer.
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