(Hoist the Gold captures the G2 Cigar Mile Handicap at Aqueduct on Saturday / Photo by Joe Labozzetta & Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Dream Team One Racing Stable’s Kentucky homebred Hoist the Gold became horse racing’s newest millionaire with a powerful frontrunning score to capture Saturday’s Grade 2, $500,000 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained by Dallas Stewart and piloted by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who suggested targeting the one-turn mile for 3-year-olds and up, Hoist the Gold zipped through splits of 22.41 seconds, 44.88 and 1:09.04 over the muddy and sealed track and powered home 4 1/2-lengths clear of the late-running Senor Buscador.

Hoist the Gold, a 4-year-old Mineshaft colt, won the six-furlong Grade 2 Phoenix in October at Keeneland with Velazquez up, but faltered to sixth last out when exiting post 3-of-8 in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 4 at Santa Anita Park.

Trainer Dallas Stewart — Hoist the Gold (1st): 

“What a race. Johnny picked the right race for us,” said Stewart. “He told us at Breeders’ Cup the horse doesn’t like dirt in his face. He said, ‘just let me ride him the way I want – run him a mile at Aqueduct and he won’t get beat.’ He was 100 percent right.”

Hoist the Gold, carrying 121 pounds, put away pace-pressing Pipeline and opened up by five lengths at the stretch call with a rail-riding Coastal Mission trying and failing to cut into the margin. Senor Buscador, who was last-of-12 early under Junior Alvarado, had saved ground down the backstretch but tipped eight-wide turning for home and began to pick off rivals one-by-one. Senor Buscador rallied gamely but there was no reeling in the freewheeling Hoist the Gold, who stopped the clock in a final time of 1:34.28.

It was 4 1/4-lengths back to 32-1 longshot Castle Chaos in third with Three Technique, Coastal Mission, Offaly Cool, Dr Ardito, High Oak, Pipeline, Accretive, Everso Mischievous and Cascais rounding out the order of finish.

Stewart credited Velazquez for executing a perfect trip.

“At the eighth pole, he kicked in another gear and got in front of them some more,” Stewart said. “He made that separation and that’s the sign of a good horse. I just hate that they took the Grade 1 away, but he showed he’s a good horse and we’ll take the $500,000 and head down the road.”

Jockey Johnny Velazquez — Hoist the Gold: 

Velazquez, who won this event last year with Mind Control, said he felt confident turning for home.

“Right before the quarter pole, I didn’t feel anybody around me. I was like, ‘man, they’re going to have to really run because I know when he switch the lead, he goes on again,’” said Velazquez, who notched his fourth Cigar Mile win following additional success with Left Bank [2001] and Tonalist. “I didn’t feel anybody, but I made him switch the lead and made sure he keep his mind running, because when he gets to the stretch, he runs but he gets out at the same time. I had to keep him busy as well.”

The Todd Fincher-trained Senor Buscador closed from last-of-9 to take the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 San Diego Handicap in July at Del Mar and utilized those same deep-closing tactics in his next three outings – all in Grade 1 company. He was fourth in the 10-furlong Pacific Classic at Del Mar; third in the nine-furlong Awesome Again at Santa Anita; and seventh, defeated 5 1/4-lengths by the victorious White Abarrio, last out in the 10-furlong Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Although the 5-year-old Mineshaft bay raced closer to the pace when taking the one-turn mile Grade 3 Ack Ack last October at Churchill Downs, he could see them all after the opening quarter-mile here with Alvarado aboard for the first time.

Jockey Junior Alvarado — Senor Buscador: 

“He fell back. I didn’t want to change his running style, I let it be,” Alvarado said. “At the turn, I started picking it up, I tried to see if I could find any room between horses on the inside and there was nothing. There was just too many horses there so I had to swing outside and I knew at that point I was running for second, but I had to still give it a try. He was game, the track was against him today, and he still put up a good effort.”