The calendar says the last day of fall is December 20th. But for many racing fans, the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct Park on Saturday marks the end of the autumn racing season.
The one-mile contest is traditionally the final Grade 1 race of the year in New York, and brings together some of the country’s top middle distance horses. The race is the final contest on a card of 10 with a scheduled Post Time of 4:15.
Here is a look at the field for this year’s event:
1. FOLLOWING SEA [ML 5-1] Jockey: John Velazquez. Trainer: Todd Pletcher. This precocious 3-year-old broke his Maiden impressively at Oaklawn Park and then followed that performance with a 6 ½-length Win at Belmont in early June. After two defeats in Grade 1 company, he Won the Grade 2 Vosburgh Stakes by 4 ¾ lengths in October. He has a high cruising speed and a running style that looks well-suited to a one-turn mile. One of Pletcher’s go-to jockeys, John Velazquez, is in the saddle.
2. PLAINSMAN [ML 12-1] Jockey: Manny Franco. Trainer: Brad Cox. No one in this year’s Cigar Mile field has Won more Stakes races this season than PLAINSMAN. He’s Won three Stakes so far in 2021, although only one was of the graded variety. That one was the Grade 3 Ack Ack Stakes at Churchill Downs in early October, where he split horses late and got up for an exciting one-length Win. In the Bold Ruler Stakes at Belmont last out, he got into some traffic trouble and was a well-beaten 3rd.
3. AMERICANREVOLUTION [ML 5-2] Jockey: Luis Saez. Trainer: Todd Pletcher. One of the most promising New York-breds to come around in recent years. AMERICANREVOLUTION has Won three New York-bred Stakes this year by a combined 24 lengths. He made his first start against older horses in the Empire Classic at Belmont last out and wiped the floor with his competition to Win by almost twelve lengths. He’s rapidly improved with every start and has the potential to Win several Graded Stakes next year. We’ll see what he’s made of here, in a test of his class.
4. CODE OF HONOR [ML 6-1] Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione. Trainer: Shug McGaughey. CODE OF HONOR is still looking to recapture his form from his 3-year-old season. He Won four Graded Stakes races in 2019, including the Travers Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and he was 2nd in the Kentucky Derby. This year, while he’s been competitive in Graded Stakes company, he hasn’t quite been the same horse. He’s likely to attract lots of money based on name value alone, and while he’s a serious contender in this field, he may get over-bet.
5. INDEPENDENCE HALL [ML 7-2] Jockey: Javier Castellano. Trainer: Mike McCarthy. After several near-misses in Graded Stakes company, INDEPENDENCE HALL broke through in a big way last out with a dominant 7 ¼-length Win in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes at Keeneland. He was pressed on the pace all the way by CODE OF HONOR but he shook off the challenge and Won easily. He’s going to be on the early pace and will try to take them gate-to-wire.
6. GINOBILI [ML 7-2] Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke. Trainer: Richard Baltas. California-based trainer Baltas seldom sends horses to the East Coast, but he’ll race GINOBILI Saturday as this 4-year-old seeks his first Grade 1 Win. Last out, he raced in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and while he was no match for the impressive LIFE IS GOOD, he out-finished the others and got up for 2nd place. Historically, East Coast horses have dominated the Cigar Mile, and West Coast invaders are few and far between. Nonetheless, GINOBILI is in career-best form and will pose a threat if he can bring his California form to Queens.
7. OLYMPIAD [ML 10-1] Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. Trainer: Bill Mott. OLYMPIAD is by far the lightest-raced member of the Cigar Mile field. He’s had just four starts, and never in a Stakes race. Although he’s raced well and shown some promise he’s never faced a field nearly this tough. This colt is going to have to run a career-best race to have a chance of beating the likes of these.
8. PIPELINE [ML 15-1] Jockey: Jose Ortiz. Trainer: Chad Brown. This is another ambitiously placed 3-year-old getting a major class test. PIPELINE broke his Maiden in his fourth career start, Winning a seven-furlong Maiden special weight by 3 ¼ lengths at Saratoga on September 4th. In his most recent start, the Perryville Stakes at Keeneland, he briefly led in the stretch but was outkicked and finished 3rd. He’s going to have to improve quite a bit, to seriously contend in this race.
ANALYSIS: We at the Daily Racing Blog are always in search of Value when wagering on horses. That said, while we like #3 AMERICANREVOLUTION, we don’t like him at 5-2 or possibly 1-1 at Post Time. We are going to try and beat him with #1 FOLLOWING SEA.
FOLLOWING SEA looked like a potential Winner of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at the top of the stretch before being forced to steady. He was still beaten just a length and a half. As a Grade 2 Winner and multiple Grade 1-placed, he’s the class of a deep and talented field. We’ll look for him to go early from the inside stall and run them off their feet. And with a Morning Line of 5-1 we should get a nice price on him as we suspect he will be overlooked.
THE PLAY: If your bank allows, key FOLLOWING SEA on top of a Trifecta using ALL underneath. In lieu of the All Button use the #1 on top of the 2-3-4-5-6.
For a live long-shot or saver we recommend #8 PIPELINE.
Best of luck no matter how you play it.