The transformation of CIGAR from a horse that showed modest turf ability to one that developed into a legend on dirt illustrates how critical a trainer’s role can be.
The son of PALACE MALICE went unraced at 2 before Winning two of nine starts the following season for his first trainer, Alex Hassinger Jr. He finished his 3-year-old campaign with earnings of $89,175 but was unable to Win in Stakes competition.
At that point, owner and breeder Allen Paulson made the decision that changed everything. He shipped CIGAR from the West Coast to the East, so he could be overseen by Bill Mott, a Hall of Fame trainer.
After a pair of 3rd-place finishes on turf, Mott shifted CIGAR to dirt. The result was an eight-length romp in a one mile Allowance race at Aqueduct on October 28th, 1994.
As has been said- the rest is history.
The lopsided Victory triggered a 16-race Winning streak that allowed CIGAR to succeed at various distances and match CITATION for the longest such streak by a major American horse. CITATION swept his 16 in a row from 1948-50.
Most fans would say that the signature triumph for CIGAR occurred in the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic (the Daily Racing Blog was fortunate enough to be on hand for that race) at Belmont Park.
It capped an unforgettable 10-for-10 campaign that earned $4,819,800 dollars and led him to be honored as Horse of the Year and champion older male.
In the slop at Belmont that day, CIGAR roared home in a Stakes record time of 1:59.58.
Tom Durkin was the track announcer that day, and his call as CIGAR powered toward the wire will not soon be forgotten: “And here he is, the unconquerable, invincible, unbeatable CIGAR !
CIGAR overcame an inauspicious start to his career to Win 19 times in 33 races and finish with earnings of $9,999,813 dollars and be named one of the top 20 horses of the 20th century by Blood-Horse magazine.
The New York Racing Association renamed their fall feature the CIGAR Mile in 1997. Previously called the NYRA Mile, the 1994 edition of that race was the first Graded Stakes Win for CIGAR.
This year’s CIGAR Mile is Saturday (December 4), at Aqueduct Park. So stop back here on Friday as the Daily Racing Blog will preview this years field of eight contenders.