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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 5)

"The Hollywood Gold Cup was not on the agenda. It was supposed to be a rest period for Cigar. But in that race he was more powerful, more devastating than in any other race," Bailey says of Cigar's three-and-a-half length win.

Cigar closed out '95 by winning a trio of Grade 1 races at Belmont Park, a feat that alone would have been enough to secure the reputation of any racehorse: the $500,000 Woodward (No. 10), $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (No. 11) and $3 million Breeders' Cup Classic (No. 12) in which Cigar overcame an outside post and a muddy track he didn't like, closing out his perfect year with his most prestigious win to date.

Suffice it to say there was no suspense leading up to the announcement of Cigar's Eclipse Award as the Horse of the Year, or for the kudos given to Mott, Bailey and Paulson for their accomplishments.

Cigar began 1996 on familiar ground, taking his second Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park for win No. 13. But the ground he'd travel in his next start would be anything but familiar.

The $3 million Breeders' Cup Classic was the world's richest horse race, until the $4 million Dubai World Cup was inserted into the racing calendar for March 27. California tracks countered with a three-race series that offered a lucrative bonus plan designed to attract Cigar. A horse that swept all three races would earn an extra $2 million.

Paulson's plan was to have Cigar try to win all four.

The California series, known as the MGM Grand Classic Crown, came up cursed. A foot problem kept Cigar out of the Santa Anita Handicap on March 2 while another foot ailment later eliminated him from the Hollywood Gold Cup on June 30. (It was on Aug. 10 in the last part of the series, the Pacific Classic, that Cigar's streak would finally come unraveled.)

Here are just a few of the challenges Cigar faced going from the Donn to Dubai: an abbreviated training schedule due to the time lost from the foot ailment; a 7,000-mile commute; an unfamiliar desert climate; a deep, tiring, sandy track; a track shaped more like a triangle instead of the familiar oval; and a full field of high-quality, but hard to gauge rivals culled from the top racing circuits worldwide.

Oh yes, and the race would be run under the lights at night.

It all was quite a contrast to where the streak began, from Aqueduct Racetrack by Jamaica Bay to Nad Al Sheba Race Course by the Persian Gulf. Mott would watch this race from a big, comfortable leather armchair, surrounded by sheiks in the royal enclosure. From this perch he found himself slipping into "the zone."


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