2020 Cigar Mile Handicap Contenders and Odds

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NYRA Press Release | OTB Writer
Updated: November 22, 2020

Multiple Grade 1-winner Mind Control, trained by Gregg Sacco for Steve Brunetti's Red Oak Stable and Sol Kumin's Madaket Stables, posted a five-eighths work in 1:01.85 Sunday on the Belmont Park dirt training track in preparation for the Grade 1, $250,000 Cigar Mile for 3-year-olds and up on December 5 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The Cigar Mile Day card also includes a pair of Grade 2, $150,000 nine-furlong events for juveniles in the Remsen and its filly counterpart, the Demoiselle, as well as the Grade 3, $100,000 Go for Wand Handicap for fillies and mares at one mile.

Sacco said Mind Control, a 4-year-old son of 2012 Cigar Mile champ Stay Thirsty, is likely to enter the Cigar Mile, although the six-furlong Grade 3, $100,000 Fall Highweight Handicap on November 29 at the Big A remains under consideration.

"He worked well. He went five-eighths in 1:01 and change and out in 1:15. The track was a little heavy this morning," said Sacco. "I'll talk it over with my brother [racing manager Rick Sacco], Steve Brunetti and Sol Kumin, but it looks like we're going to point him to the Cigar Mile."

2020 Cigar Mile Handicap Entries & Odds

Entry Horse ML Odds Jockey Trainer

** Odds to be posted after draw **

The talented colt captured the seven-furlong Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga Race Course as a juvenile and added the seven-furlong Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens to his ledger last August at the Spa.

A four-time winner at Aqueduct, Mind Control captured the one-mile Jerome here in his first sophomore start and ran second to Haikal at one mile in the 2019 Grade 3 Gotham ahead of a score in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Bay Shore. He continued his good form at Ozone Park earlier this year with wins in the Grade 3 Toboggan in January and Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap in March.

After running off-the-board on a sloppy track in the Grade 1 Runhappy Carter Handicap in June at Belmont, Mind Control returned to form with a strong third in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga. His chances in the Grade 1 Forego presented by America's Best Racing at Saratoga were hampered by a sloppy track, resulting in an eighth-place finish.

"He's been a bit of a victim of circumstance this year," said Sacco. "He started out the year great, but caught the slop in the Carter and then he ran well on the fast track in the Vanderbilt before catching slop again in the Forego. He really can't hold up in the slop."

Mind Control found class relief in the Mr. Prospector on September 12 at Monmouth Park but was checked down the backstretch en route to a third-place finish. Last out, in the Lafayette at Keeneland, Mind Control was in range to strike when a horse fell in front of him at the quarter pole causing Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez to take up his mount.

Sacco said he is hopeful Mind Control can return to winning form at Aqueduct against an expected field that includes top contenders Performer and Firenze Fire.

"He's won at a mile early in his 3-year-old career in the Jerome and he was a good second in the Gotham," said Sacco. "We always thought between seven-eighths and a mile was his best distance. Three-quarters is a little short for him even though he's won at that distance and ran a dynamite race in the Vanderbilt at Saratoga.

"He loves Aqueduct and he came out of the Kentucky race well," added Sacco. "We know it's going to be a tough heat. Performer is a hell of a horse and there's a few other really nice horses in there."

Trainer Jack Sisterson saddled his first Grade 1-winner this summer with Vexatious in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga and said he is hoping to double up when he sends out Calumet Farm's True Timber and Bon Raison in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile.

"We'll definitely send True Timber and there's a good chance we'll send Bon Raison for the Cigar Mile as well," said Sisterson.

True Timber, a 6-year-old son of Mineshaft, will be making his third Cigar Mile appearance following a close second to Patternrecognition in 2018 and a third a year ago in an event won by Maximum Security.

A veteran of 28 career starts, True Timber boasts a record of 28-4-5-9 with purse earnings in excess of $1 million. He joined the Sisterson barn earlier this season following the retirement of former trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

In four starts with Sisterson, True Timber has posted two thirds and a closing second last out in the Lafayette at Keeneland.

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"He's a lovely horse and the way he tries on the day he really deserves to win a big race. He's definitely got the talent to do it," said Sisterson. "He's very workmanlike in the morning, so I've learned to let him just put his feet where he wants to put them and keep him happy."

His lone off-the-board effort for Sisterson was a fourth in the Grade 2 Vosburgh Invitational in September at Belmont when leaving from the inside post in a race won by Cigar Mile-rival Firenze Fire.

"He didn't like being stuck down on the rail at Belmont two races back [in the Vosburgh], and that's just him. Put a line through that race and he's run some competitive races with us," said Sisterson. "He seems to be peaking into his best possible performance to date with us. He has one more breeze here next week and if all goes to plan, I definitely expect him to run as good in there as he has done in the past. He's probably looking forward to getting up there."

Bon Raison, a 5-year-old Raison d'Etat horse, is a Calumet homebred, who returned to the fold in July when claimed for $80,000 from an optional-claiming sprint at Saratoga.

A veteran of 44 career starts, Bon Raison owns a record of 11-4-7 with purse earnings of $674,534. He captured the 6 ½-furlong Peeping Tom at Aqueduct as part of a marathon 21-race campaign last year that also included a score in the six-furlong Tale of the Cat at Saratoga. Earlier this year, Bon Raison picked up graded black type when third to Mind Control in the Grade 3 Tom Fool at the Big A.

"He's a homebred and has a special place in Calumet's heart," said Sisterson. "If you really diagnose his form and numbers, he's got some big numbers to go back to. He's run quite a few times and at different distances and he was able to withstand all of that. It goes to show the will to run he has."

In his second start for Sisterson, Bon Raison tried the Grade 3 Turf Sprint at Kentucky Downs in September but failed to fire. He came back and won a hard-fought nose score in an optional-claiming sprint on October 16 on the Keeneland main track.

"We took a shot at Kentucky Downs and some horses take to that course and some don't," said Sisterson. "He came out of that race fine and trained forwardly into the nice little allowance race at Keeneland which he somehow ended up winning. He just got up. It just goes to show he still has the will to run."

Last out, Bon Raison was a non-threatening tenth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint on November 7 at Keeneland under Adam Beschizza. He exited that effort to work a half-mile in 49.40 Saturday on the Keeneland dirt.

"If you look closely at the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Adam Beschizza got off him and said, `Jack, you have to watch the replay, I didn't even touch him with the whip. I had nowhere to run,'" said Sisterson. "So, he didn't have a tough race coming out of the Breeders' Cup Sprint and he worked great yesterday."

Sisterson said the Calumet pair have complimentary running styles, with True Timber likely to be prominently placed.

"One will be forwardly placed and one will be coming from off the pace and it wouldn't shock me if either of them won it in two weeks' time," said Sisterson. "He [True Timber] has a naturally high cruising speed and if you can get him into a good rhythm, I think he can carry that over a distance of ground."

Sisterson said Kendrick Carmouche will have the call aboard True Timber, while Jorge Vargas, Jr. will pilot Bon Raison.

Early look at the Grade 1, $250,000 Cigar Mile on December 5, 2020

Probable: Bon Raison (Jack Sisterson), Firenze Fire (Kelly Breen), King Guillermo (Juan Carolos Avila), Mr. Buff (John Kimmel), Mind Control (Gregg Sacco), Performer (Shug McGaughey), True Timber (Jack Sisterson)

Possible: Majestic Dunhill (George Weaver)

Firenze Fire Targets Grade 1 Cigar Mile

NOV 15 - Trainer Kelly Breen said Mr. Amore Stable's multiple graded-stakes winner Firenze Fire will make his next start in the Grade 1, $250,000 Cigar Mile Handicap on December 5 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

"He's back at Belmont and that's what we're pointing for," said Breen.

The 5-year-old Poseidon's Warrior bay rallied from 11th to finish third last out in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint on November 7 at Keeneland Racetrack under Jose Lezcano.

"It was a good race," said Breen.

Breen said Lezcano, aboard for Firenze Fire's Grade 2 Vosburgh Invitational win on September 26 at Belmont, will retain the mount for the Cigar Mile.

Top contenders confirmed for the Cigar Mile include Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby-winner King Guillermo and 2019 Grade 3 Discovery-winner Performer. Other horses under consideration for the Cigar Mile include New York-bred millionaire Mr. Buff and last-out Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap-winner Majestic Dunhill.

Breen took over training duties for Firenze Fire earlier this year and has saddled the horse to a record of two wins from six starts, including a victory in the Grade 2 True North on June 27 on a fast Belmont main track. Two of Firenze Fire's losses for Breen came in Grade 1 events - the Runhappy Carter Handicap at Belmont and the Forego presented by America's Best Racing at Saratoga - on sloppy tracks.

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The Cigar Mile Day card also includes a pair of Grade 2, $150,000 nine-furlong events for juveniles in the Remsen and its filly counterpart, the Demoiselle, as well as the Grade 3, $100,000 Go for Wand Handicap for fillies and mares at one mile.

Breen will send out New Jersey-bred Pickin' Time, a John Bowers, Jr. homebred, in the Remsen. The Stay Thirsty colt earned an 82 Beyer Speed Figure last out, winning the Grade 3 Nashua at a one-turn mile on the Big A main.

"He came out of it in good order," said Breen.

Breen said Mr. Amore Stable's New York homebred It's a Gamble could target the $100,000 Central Park, a 1 1/16-mile turf tile for juveniles on November 28 at Aqueduct.

"I'm not sure what we're going to do, but that is a possibility," said Breen.

The English Channel bay graduated at first asking in a state-bred turf sprint on August 13 at Saratoga ahead of a fourth in the one-mile Nownownow on October 4 on the Monmouth Park turf. Last out, on October 31, It's a Gamble bobbled at the start of the 1 1/16-mile Awad on yielding Belmont turf and failed to menace when seventh.

Gary and Mary West's Full Impact, a 3-year-old Street Sense colt, earned a 94 Beyer for his impressive 4 1/2-length score in a first-level allowance on November 13 contested at 6 1/2-furlongs on a sloppy and sealed Big A main.

Out of the multiple graded stakes winning Even the Score mare Four Gifts, Full Impact was purchased for $140,000 at the Keenland September Yearling Sale.

Breen said no future targets have been set as of yet for the promising colt.

King Guillermo confirmed for Cigar Mile

NOV 8 - Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby-winner King Guillermo, trained by Juan C. Avila for Victoria's Ranch, is aiming to make his comeback in the Grade 1, $250,000 Cigar Mile for 3-year-olds and up on December 5 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Victoria's Ranch is the nom de course of retired baseball player Victor Martinez, a five-time All-Star who finished second in the MVP voting in 2014 when he hit 32 home runs. Martinez played for 18 seasons for a trio of teams - the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers - as a catcher, first baseman and designated hitter.

"We're going to train towards the Cigar Mile. We'd like to find him a Grade 1 win," said Avila. "I think the one-turn mile suits him for his first race back."

The Uncle Mo colt was scratched two days before a scheduled start in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby [won on September 5 by Authentic] after spiking a temperature. King Guillermo returned to the work tab on October 17 at Gulfstream Park breezing a half-mile in 51.78 seconds and fired a bullet half-mile in 46.48 on the Gulfstream main in his third recorded work on November 1.

"It was a very good breeze," said Avila of the bullet work. "He's doing perfect."

King Guillermo, named after Martinez's father, did not breeze this morning after Tropical Storm Eta brought heavy rain and gusty winds to South Florida.

A $150,000 purchase at the OBS April 2019 Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds In Training, King Guillermo graduated last November at second asking on the Gulfstream Park West turf. After finishing third to the victorious Sole Volante in the Pulpit at one-mile on the Gulfstream turf on November 30, 2019, King Guillermo turned the tables on his rival with a 4 3/4-length score at odds of 49-1 in March in the Tampa Bay Derby at 1 1/16-miles on the main track.

King Guillermo exited his prominent Tampa Bay Derby coup to finish a game second to the undefeated multiple graded stakes winner Nadal in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at nine furlongs at Oaklawn Park.

Avila said King Gullermo will ship to New York on November 29.

Majestic Dunhill may enter Cigar Mile

NOV 15 - Trainer George Weaver said R.A. Hill Stable's Majestic Dunhill, who made the grade last out in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap at Belmont Park, will make his next start at the Big A in either the six-furlong Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap or the Grade 1 Cigar Mile.

The 5-year-old Majesticperfection gelding was game to the wire to win the seven-furlong Bold Ruler by a head over Share the Ride on a muddy Belmont main track. Weaver said he will take a close look at how both the Fall Highweight and Cigar Mile fields shape up before deciding.

"We'll see how both races come up. I'm sure the Cigar Mile will have some heavyweights in there," said Weaver. "Majestic Dunhill is a gelding, so we're not looking to establish stud value with him. We're trying to make as much money as possible and spot him as best we can. The way the two fields stack up will factor heavily in our decision. He's a fun horse to have."

Majestic Dunhill, who earned a career-best 100 Beyer winning the Bold Ruler, boasts a record of 21-5-4-4 with purse earnings of $373,214.

Mr. Buff under consideration for Cigar Mile (G1)

NOV 12 - Chester and Mary Broman's New York-bred Mr. Buff breezed a sharp half-mile in 48.47 on November 8 on the Belmont main track and is under consideration for the Grade 1, $250,000 Cigar Mile Handicap for 3-year-olds and up slated for December 5 at Aqueduct.

Trainer John Kimmel said the 6-year-old Friend Or Foe chestnut, who garnered a 94 Beyer for his frontrunning Empire Classic score last out on October 24 at Belmont, is training well.

"It was a good work. He came out of his last race well and seems to be holding his form," said Kimmel.

Mr. Buff, who boasts a record of 40-15-7-4 with purse earnings in excess of $1.2 million, enjoyed a profitable winter at Aqueduct winning the Alex M. Robb against state-breds in December and the open Jazil in January before romping to a 20-length score over state-breds in the Haynesfield at one mile on the Big A main.

Following the Empire Classic score, Kimmel said he would consider pointing Mr. Buff to the nine-furlong Grade 1 Clark on November 27 at Churchill Downs but is now focused on either the Cigar Mile or defending his title in the nine-furlong $100,000 Alex M. Robb for New York-breds 3-years old and up on December 12.

"We won't go out of town to the Clark. We'll look at either the Cigar Mile or the Alex M. Robb," said Kimmel. "His one-turn mile race at Aqueduct last year [the Haynesfield] before he went to the shelf was excellent when he won by 20 lengths. The Cigar Mile is a possibility depending on who shows up. If it looks too deep, we could wait until the next week and go in the easier spot, but the Cigar Mile is something we'll nominate for and take a look at."

Top contenders for the Cigar Mile currently include Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby-winner King Guillermo and 2019 Grade 3 Discovery-winner Performer. The Cigar Mile Day card also includes a pair of Grade 2, $150,000 nine-furlong events for juveniles in the Remsen and its filly counterpart, the Demoiselle, as well as the Grade 3, $100,000 Go for Wand Handicap for fillies and mares at one mile.

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