(Mendelssohn before this year’s Travers Stakes at Saratoga / Photo by Francesca LeDonne & Courtesy of NYRA)
From the NYRA Media Team:
G1 Cigar Mile Headlines Wonderful Card on Saturday at Aqueduct:
The globetrotting Grade 1 winner Mendelssohn, Grade 2 Kelso victor Patternrecognition and emerging star Copper Town headline a talented field of eight for the 30th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap, presented by NYRA Bets, on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The lucrative Cigar Mile card, which also features the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen for 2-year-olds, the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle for 2-year-old fillies, and the Grade 3, $250,000 Go For Wand Handicap for older fillies and mares, is the signature event of the Aqueduct fall meet.
Carded as race nine with a local post time of 3:45 p.m., the Cigar Mile will be televised on a special edition of Aqueduct Live, presented by Claiborne Farm, airing on MSG+ from 3-4:30 p.m. ET. Saturday’s Aqueduct Live, NYRA’s final ‘Live’ show of 2018, will also present coverage and analysis of the Remsen.
Mendelssohn, trained by Aidan O’Brien for owners Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith, has traveled the world, posting wins in Ireland, Dubai and the U.S., highlighted by his November 2017 victory in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar.
In March, the Scat Daddy colt, a half-brother to both four-time Eclipse Award-winning mare Beholder and leading sire Into Mischief, further demonstrated his class with an 18 1/2-length romp in the Group 2 UAE Derby at Meydan.
Following a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby, Mendelssohn made three starts in New York, finishing third in the Grade 3 Dwyer, second in the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers and third in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Last out in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 3 at Churchill Downs, Mendelssohn set a swift pace in the 1 1/4-mile test and stayed on strong to finish fifth in a race won by Horse of the Year candidate Accelerate.
“We were delighted with his run in the Classic,” said O’Brien. “And we’re very happy with his work since.”
Mendelssohn shipped into Belmont Park on Tuesday and once clearing quarantine will be stabled at Aqueduct as he looks for his first Grade 1 win on the dirt.
“We always thought a mile would not be a problem to him,” said O’Brien. “We have been very happy with the way he has developed from two to three; he has usually been a good breaker and a good strong traveler in his races.”
Ryan Moore, making his first appearance at Aqueduct, retains the mount aboard Mendelssohn who will leave from the inside post.
Trainer Chad Brown will saddle a pair of strong contenders in the Cigar Mile led by Grade 2 winner Patternrecognition and multiple Grade 3-winner Timeline.
Patternrecognition, owned by Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence, made his first graded start a winning one with a powerful front-running performance in the Grade 2 Kelso.
A $420,000 purchase as a 2-year-old, the Adios Charlie bay went unraced as a juvenile before posting a remarkably consistent sophomore campaign that included a pair of strong wins at Aqueduct highlighted by a November allowance score that earned a personal-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure. Lightly raced, Patternrecognition arrives at the Cigar Mile on a two-race win streak.
“It took him a while to develop, but he’s turned into a nice horse,” said Brown. “He just has to keep moving forward. It’s a tough race, but he’s a nice horse and on his best day he’s capable of being competitive in here. He does like Aqueduct and it’s part of the reason we pointed to this race.”
Jose Ortiz, in search of his first Cigar Mile win, will pilot Patternrecognition from post eight.
Brown, who won the Cigar Mile in 2016 with Connect, will also saddle Woodford Racing’s Timeline. A chestnut son of Hard Spun, Timeline has won five of 11 career starts, including Grade 3 scores in the Peter Pan and Pegasus as a 3-year-old.
A beaten favorite when fifth in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, Timeline closed out his sophomore season with a seventh-place effort in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby. The Cigar Mile will mark Timeline’s sixth start of this campaign, which is highlighted by an allowance win in June at Belmont.
“He’s had a couple of minor setbacks here and there, so we haven’t raced him as much as we would have liked to, but he seems to be training well right now,” said Brown. “At this stage of his career, it’s a good test to see what we do going forward with him.”
Both horses worked four furlongs, separately, over the Belmont training track on Sunday in preparation for the Cigar Mile, with Timeline clocked in 49.91 seconds and Patternrecognition in 50.11.
“Both horses worked well and are coming into the race the way I would have hoped,” said Brown. “It’s an important race, the Cigar Mile, and we’re fortunate to have two horses to compete in it this year.”
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will pilot Timeline from post seven.
Copper Town, bred and co-owned by WinStar Farm in partnership with China Horse Club International, SF Racing, and Head of Plains Partners, arrives at the Cigar Mile in the midst of a three-race win streak for trainer Todd Pletcher.
The Speightstown bay, out of stakes-winner Dynazaper, hinted at potential stardom at third asking in October 2017 when streaking to a 6 1/4-length score in a 1 1/16-miles allowance at Belmont that earned a career-best 106 Beyer. Following a one-year layoff, Copper Town showed no rust when dusting a Keeneland optional claiming field on October 13 by five lengths.
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who has won the past two runnings of the Cigar Mile with Connect in 2016 and Sharp Azteca a year ago, will pilot Copper Town from post five.
Pat On the Back will carry local hopes for trainer Jeremiah Englehart and owners Harold Lerner, AWC Stables and Nehoc Stables. Bred in New York by Sugar Maple Farm, Pat On the Back boasts a career record of 6-4-4 from 21 career starts and $727,532 in purse earnings. The 4-year-old Congrats chestnut has won a pair of restricted stakes this year, taking the Saginaw in July and the Empire Classic last out.
“He’s battled some foot issues all year long on both front feet, but this is probably the best he has been all year,” said Englehart. “My blacksmith, Brad Dewey, has done a real nice job keeping him together.”
Pat On the Back will step into Grade 1 company for the first time on Saturday, but the colt has kept good company in 2018 including a narrow nose loss to Diversify May 28 in the Commentator. Diversify exited that effort to win both the Grade 2 Suburban and Grade 1 Whitney.
“I thought he really ran a tremendous race to lose against Diversify the way he did,” said Englehart. “It showed he’s more than just a horse that can race against New York-breds. This is the perfect time to give him an opportunity in the open ranks and see what he’s made of.”
A versatile type with wins ranging in distance from six furlongs up to a mile and an eighth, Pat On the Back posted a quick four-panel breeze on Saturday in 49.95 seconds in preparation for the Cigar Mile.
“That work was good. It’s what we wanted to see from him coming out of the Empire Classic. He’s doing very well,” said Englehart. “I think the one-turn mile would be his ideal distance.
“Every race you win is pretty special, but to get a horse into a Grade 1 race is important,” added Englehart, who notched his first Grade 1 win in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with Ria Antonia. “As a kid growing up, you dream of winning these types of races and once you win one, you want to win more of them.”
Dylan Davis will guide Pat On the Back from post three.
Sunny Ridge, a millionaire son of Holy Bull owned and bred by Dennis Drazin, will be looking for his first win at Aqueduct in his third appearance.
Trained by Jason Servis, the 5-year-old grey gelding, a determined second in the Kelso, has been a model of consistency with a record of 6-5-3 from 20 starts, including scores in the 2016 renewal of the Grade 3 Withers along with stakes victories in the 2015 Sapling; the Stymie and Jazil in 2017; and the State Dinner in July at Belmont.
Irad Ortiz, Jr., seeking his first Cigar Mile score, has the call aboard Sunny Ridge from post two.
Calumet Farm’s True Timber, a 4-year-old son of Mineshaft trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, will be looking for his first stakes win in Saturday’s Grade 1 test.
The improving bay colt has won three of six starts this season and earned a lofty 103 Beyer for a 1 1/4-length win in a seven-furlong optional claiming sprint on June 3 at Belmont. Last season, True Timber competed in a series of Grade 3 tests for sophomores, finishing third in the Jerome, second in the Withers and fifth in the Gotham.
Although yet to post a win beyond seven furlongs, the improving True Timber arrives at the Cigar Mile from a second-place run in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler. True Timber will leave from post six under Joe Bravo.
“He’s very consistent, mostly at six and seven furlongs, but the mile should be fine. His style fits the race well. [Joe] Bravo rode him last time and got familiar with him. He’s a nice horse,” said McLaughlin. “His last race was a little funny; he dropped back and then came running going seven furlongs. The mile shouldn’t be a problem but he’s probably a little better going shorter.
“He’s had a lot of runs for us. We ran him in the Withers, Gotham, Wood Memorial – all those races – and he was placing in them,” added McLaughlin. “But he didn’t want to go that far. He’s really gotten to show what he can do this year going one turn.”
Long Lake Stable’s Stan the Man, trained by John Terranova, owns a perfect in-the-money record at Aqueduct of 2-4-1 from seven attempts. The 4-year-old Broken Vow chestnut graduated here in March in a one-mile maiden event and arrives at Saturday’s class test, his first in stakes company, on a two-race win streak. Eric Cancel has the call from post four.
First post on Saturday’s 10-race card is 11:30 a.m. Gates will open to the public at 10:30 a.m.
G2 Remsen Stakes:
A wide-open field of seven juveniles will look to earn their first respective graded stakes win when they compete in the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen as part of a stacked Cigar Mile Day Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
One of four graded stakes on a 10-race card, the 105th running of the Remsen will air as part of Aqueduct Live presented by Claiborne Farm from 3-4:30 p.m. on MSG+. Live coverage will also include the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile presented by NYRA Bets.
Carded as Race 8 with a scheduled post time of 3:12 p.m., the Remsen is the first of five races at the Big A that is part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series, which awards 10 points towards qualifying for the Run for the Roses on May 4 at Churchill Downs. The runner-up will earn four points, third-place will garner two points and the fourth-place finisher will notch one point.
Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable’s Bourbon War will make the step up to stakes company after an impressive debut win on November 14 at Aqueduct. In a one-mile race moved off the turf, the Tapit colt posted a 2 ¼-length win on the main track labeled fast. Trainer Mark Hennig said the effort made him confident the $410,000 purchase at the 2017 Keeneland Yearling Sale could handle the stretch out to the Remsen distance of 1 1/8 miles.
“He’s doing well. We discussed it Tuesday morning and came to the conclusion that we’d fit with this group,” Hennig said. “The timing is a little less than ideal, but he seems like he’s been sharp and bright since his race, so we figured we’d take a chance.
“He’s a horse who all along I thought would need to run and need more ground. I never anticipated that he’s the horse who would run the race of his life in his first start. I think there’s plenty of upside. The timing is a question mark, but he’s acting like he’s up to it. I think he’ll be up to the challenge.”
Bourbon War, who is stabled at Belmont Park, stayed off the pace in his win earlier this month before a strong finish earned him a trip to the winner’s circle.
“I would think that he would relish more ground. I don’t think distance is an issue,” Hennig said. “I don’t anticipate him being on the lead. He seems like a horse who wants to settle a little bit.”
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. will pick up the mount from post 3.
Klaravich Stables’ Network Effect will look to parlay graded stakes experience into a second win in three career starts. The Chad Brown trainee, who won his debut on August 11 at Saratoga Race Course with a three-length score in a seven-furlong contest on a main track labeled good, is coming off a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Nashua on November 4 at Aqueduct at one mile.
On the Big A’s main track labeled fast, Network Effect sat off the speed before rallying off a wide trip, finishing seven lengths in front of Call Paul for runner-up status. The son of Mark Valeski earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.
Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, who won the 2013 Remsen aboard Honor Code, will look to register his second win in the prestigious race, drawing post 5.
Maximus Mischief started his career 2-for-2 and will now be stepping up to stakes company for the first time. Owned by Cash is King and LC Racing, the Into Mischief colt already has a pair of blowout wins on his ledger, including an 8 ¾-length victory in his debut on September 29 at Parx in a 5 ½-furlong sprint. After earning a 94 Beyer for that effort, the Robert Reid, Jr. trainee recorded a 98 Beyer for a six-length win at seven furlongs on October 20 on the same track against allowance company.
The Kentucky bred has put in three bullet breezes at Parx since his last win, including a four-furlong work in 47.42 seconds with regular jockey Frankie Pennington aboard on Monday. Maximus Mischief will now face two new challenges in his young career: shipping in for a race and trying to conquer two turns.
“He hasn’t missed a beat in training. We couldn’t be any happier,” Reid said. “He’s got a real good head on his shoulders. Nothing bothers him. It’s a big jump with an extra quarter of a mile, but all indications to me is that it shouldn’t be a problem.
“We’re asking a lot on this one,” he added. “It’s the first time shipping and the first time around two turns with the added distance, so he’s going to have to step up.”
Both of Maximus Mischief’s wins have come in gate-to-wire fashion, though Reid said his charge might prefer a different style when running at a long distance.
“I think he’ll come off the pace. He’s never shown any problems in our early preparations going behind horses,” Reid said. “He took dirt and he’s shown no ill effects from that. It’s all part of the learning process for a young horse. We’re looking forward to getting some of those questions answered.”
Pennington will have the return call from post 6.
Stronach Stables’ Jungle Warrior won his first start on August 4 at Woodbine, winning over six furlongs on firm turf for trainer Sid Attard. He stayed on grass for his next start, when he ran fifth in the one-mile Grade 1 Summer on the same course.
Transferred to the care of trainer Jimmy Jerkens, the son of Animal Kingdom will make his dirt debut, drawing post 1 with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Tax, trained by Danny Gargan, will be making his first stakes appearance in his third start after breaking his maiden at second asking, winning at 1 1/16 miles on October 21 at Keeneland. The Arch colt drew post 7 with Aqueduct fall meet-leading rider Manny Franco set to ride.
Trainer Jamie Mejia will saddle a pair of entrants in Gladiator King and Chinomado, drawing posts 4 and 2, respectively. Chinomado is the field’s most experienced runner, with a 1-3-4 record in 12 career starts, including a third-place finish last out in the Juvenile Sprint on November 10 at Gulfstream Park West. Luis Reyes will ride.
Gladiator King, a Curlin colt off back-to-back wins in turf sprints at Gulfstream Park West, will be making his first stakes appearance in his fifth career start. Julian Pimentel will be aboard.
G2 Demoiselle Stakes:
Seven promising 2-year-old fillies are set to square off in the 96th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack led by the regally bred Enliven for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Godolphin.
The 1 ⅛-mile Demoiselle will be joined by three other graded dirt events on a star-studded Saturday program headlined by the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets, the final Grade 1 of the year in New York. The card will also be bolstered by the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen and Grade 3, $250,000 Go For Wand Handicap, with racing being shown live on MSG+ from 3-4:30 p.m. ET as part of Aqueduct Live presented by Claiborne Farm.
Coming off an encouraging second-place finish in the Grade 3 Tempted on November 2 at Aqueduct, Enliven will look to take another step forward on Saturday when she makes her two-turn debut. The daughter of Ghostzapper out of It’s Tricky, a multiple Grade 1 winner for McLaughlin and Godolphin, has improved like clockwork along the Beyer Speed Figure scale since finishing fourth in her debut on August 26 at Saratoga Race Course with a 65 Beyer.
The bay filly promptly broke her maiden at second asking with a 75 Beyer on September 30 at Belmont Park before most recently registering an imposing 86 Beyer for her runner-up effort in the Tempted, in which she finished five lengths behind Oxy Lady but seven lengths clear of third-place finisher Surge of Pride.
“She’s doing well, so we hope she likes two turns; I think she will,” said McLaughlin. “She just got her butt kicked in her last race, but that filly’s not back in. She’s doing very well and I don’t think the distance will be an issue. She’s out of It’s Tricky and a half to [multiple graded-stakes winner] Enticed, so it’d be nice to win a stake. We already got blacktype last time. Now, we’d really like to win one.”
Joe Bravo will be aboard Enliven from the inside post.
A little more than two months removed from orchestrating a historic upset in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup with Discreet Lover, trainer Uriah St. Lewis will again look to spring an upset in a graded stake on the NYRA circuit when he sends out Afleet Destiny for Trin-Brook Stables Inc. It took Afleet Destiny five tries to notch her first win, but she finally broke through the maiden ranks once stretched out to a mile on November 11 at Parx Racing.
“We were begging the racing office [at Parx] to card a two-turn race and when she finally got it, she won,” said St. Lewis. “She even played a little bit of cat and mouse with the filly she beat. She ran by her, waited on her, then pulled away again. She ran faster than the boys that day going the same distance, so we thought she was good enough to take a shot with here. I think the two turns and the distance [of the Demoiselle] are perfect for her. She wants to go a mile and a half, and we feel like she could be any kind.”
St. Lewis and Discreet Lover teamed up for one of the sport’s feel-good moments of the year on September 29, when Discreet Lover rallied from the back of the pack to take the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup – the marquee race of the Belmont fall meet – at odds of 45-1. The improbable victory gave the veteran horseman, who oversees a modest stable in Pennsylvania, his first Grade 1 win and just his second graded stakes tally overall.
St. Lewis is never reluctant to take a swing in a big race. The Trinidadian horseman summed up his aggressive approach succinctly when discussing Afleet Destiny’s chances in Saturday’s Demoiselle: “I’ve never met a horse that knows what their odds on the tote board are.”
Afleet Destiny will be ridden by Manny Franco, who piloted Discreet Lover to Grade 1 glory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and the pair will leave from post 6.
Trainer Ian Wilkes will saddle the improving Molto Bella for owners Six Column Stables and Randall Bloch. The chestnut daughter of Violence has ostensibly gotten better with experience and added distance after commencing her career with a dull seventh-place finish on June 29 at Churchill Downs going six furlongs. Just three starts later the $100,000 yearling purchase nearly won the one-mile Rags to Riches Stakes on October 28 at Churchill, missing by 1 ¾ lengths to Mother Mother.
Molto Bella will enlist the services of Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, and the duo will depart from outermost post 7.
Filly Joel, conditioned by perennial Aqueduct leading trainer Rudy Rodriguez, will provide the local contingent with another strong chance. The daughter of Dialed In logged an impressive maiden score in a 1 1/16-mile race at Belmont on October 25, when she won by 6 ¼ lengths in her first start beyond six furlongs. Owned and bred by Arindel, Filly Joel will be ridden by Jose Lezcano from post 3.
Rounding out the field are Positive Spirit, a recent maiden winner for trainer Rodolphe Brisset and owner Michael Ryan; Jennifer’s Dream, who enters off a second-place finish in an optional claimer at Laurel Park for trainer John Servis; and Girl of Tosconova, most recently second to next-out stakes winner South of France in a starter allowance at Aqueduct.
(Trainer Bob Baffert trains Marley’s Freedom / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
G3 Go For Wand Stakes:
Set to make her first start since finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on November 3 at Churchill Downs, Cicero Farms’ multiple graded stakes winner Marley’s Freedom will headline a field of eight in the 79th running of the Grade 3, $250,000 Go For Wand for fillies and mares going one mile on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
One of four stakes races on the day highlighted by the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile for 3-year-olds and up presented by NYRA Bets, the Go For Wand will be joined by the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen for juveniles and Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle for 2-year-old fillies.
Television coverage of Cigar Mile Day will be broadcast on Aqueduct Live, presented by Claiborne Farm, airing on MSG+ from 3 – 4:30 p.m. ET.
Sent to the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert after winning an optional-claiming race on April 20 at Santa Anita Park, the 4-year-old Blame filly subsequently reeled off three consecutive graded stakes wins, capturing the Grade 3 Desert Stormer at Santa Anita, the Grade 2 Great Lady at Los Alamitos, and the Grade 1 Ketel One Ballerina at Saratoga Race Course.
Sent off as the 4-5 post-time favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs, she raced four-wide most of the way, finishing fourth.
“She’s come out of her Breeders’ Cup race well,” said Baffert. “She drew outside that day when inside was the place to be. I really wish I had given her a prep going into that race, but she’s been training well since then. I’ve been wanting to stretch her out in distance because she’s bred to run all day, but the one-turn mile should really suit her.”
Drawing the rail, Marley’s Freedom will be ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith.
Sower will enter off a victory against elders in the Pumpkin Pie on October 28 for owner Leonard Green and trainer Linda Rice.
A 3-year-old daughter of Flatter, Sower impressively broke her maiden by 7 ¼ lengths in her debut on April 28 at Laurel Park and has gone on to compile four wins from seven starts, including a pair of third-place finishes in the Grade 3 Victory Ride on July 8 at Belmont and the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks on September 22.
“She’s doing very well. She came out of the Pumpkin Pie in good shape,” said Rice. “That was her first start against older horses. This is obviously a graded stakes and it looks like it’s coming up strong this year, but she’s training very well. As well as she ran at the seven furlongs last out, I was excited about trying her at the one-turn mile.”
Drawing post 3, Sower will be ridden by Manny Franco.
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey will enter Browse for Phipps Stable. A 5-year-old home-bred sired by Medaglia d’Oro, Browse won her debut while making her first seven starts on the dirt, including a second-place finish in the Our Mims at Delaware as a 3-year-old.
She subsequently made her next eight starts on the turf before returning to the dirt at Saratoga, winning a 5 ½-furlong sprint that was taken off the grass. Trying stakes company for the first time in the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters on September 17 in her most recent start, she finished fourth after encountering trouble at the start.
“It’s a pretty big step up for her, but she’s been doing good,” said McGaughey. “She’s fresh and I like the distance, so we’ll see. She was second in a stakes on the dirt, and she won at Saratoga, so I don’t think that will be a problem. I just hope nobody will be loose on the lead. If it comes up sloppy that will be even better for us.”
Jose Ortiz will pilot Browse from post 2.
Trainer Chad Brown will enter a pair of talented contenders in Pacific Wind, for owners Peter Brant, Sharon Alesia, Ciaglia Racing and Dominic Savides, and Your Love, for owner Paul Pompa, Jr.
Pacific Wind, a 4-year-old Curlin filly, won her 2018 debut in an optional-claiming race on April 13 at Keeneland. She went on to capture the Grade 2 Ruffian in her next start and most recently finished third in the Grade 1 Spinster on October 7 at Keeneland.
A 4-year-old daughter of Flatter, Your Love has four wins along with four second-place finishes from nine starts this year. Last out, she finished a game second making her graded stakes debut in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap on September 23 at Belmont.
Pacific Wind will leave from post 8 with Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons. Your Love will leave from post 5 with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano aboard.
Rounding out the field is 3-year-old filly Tigalalu for trainer Mark Hennig and owner John O’Connor. The Curlin chestnut is making her stakes debut following a pair of second-place allowance finishes on September 21 at Belmont and November 7 at Aqueduct respectively. Junior Alvarado has the call from post 6.