CIGAR was a horse that showed modest turf ability, but transformed into a legend on dirt, illustrating just how critical a trainer’s role can be.
The son of PALACE MUSIC went unraced at 2 before Winning two of nine starts the following season for his first trainer, Alex Hassinger Jr.
CIGAR finished his 3-year-old campaign with earnings of $89,175 but could not 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.
Mott, always one to take his time, did not return CIGAR to competition until July.
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.
That lopsided Victory triggered a 16-race Winning streak that allowed CIGAR to succeed at various distances and match CITATION (16 in a row from 1948-50) for the longest such streak by a major American horse.
The regular rider of CIGAR– Jerry Baily, gives Mott much of the credit for that accomplishment. “My belief is that CIGAR was a true, natural miler, one of the best I’ve ever been on. He reminded me of a SEATTLE SLEW type.” Bailey said.
Most fans (Daily Racing Blog included) would say that the signature triumph for CIGAR was in the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic at a sloppy Belmont Park.
CIGAR roared home in a Stakes record time of 1:59.58, which produced a memorable call of the race by track announcer Tom Durkin who exclaimed as CIGAR powered to the wire: “And here he is, the unconquerable, invincible, unbeatable CIGAR!”
It was almost as if CIGAR understood the magnitude of the Classic because he could not wait to get to the lead. He pulled on Bailey while the rider fought to maintain a tight hold, mindful of the mile-and-a-quarter distance.
“I thought the whip was going to fall out of my hands,” Bailey said. “In that particular race, the only reason I let him go when I did was I had no more feeling in my hands. My fingers were numb from him pulling on the reins.”
It capped an unforgettable 10-for-10 campaign that earned $4,819,800 and led him to be honored as Horse of the Year and Champion older male.
CIGAR overcame a discouraging start to his career, to Win 19 times in 33 races and finish with career earnings of $9,999,813.
Blood-Horse Magazine ranks CIGAR 18th among the top 100 Thoroughbreds of the 20th Century.
The 2022 Breeders’ Cup Classic is Saturday, November 5th.