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Americanrevolution, trained by Todd Pletcher, is among an accomplished field of eight horses who will seek the calendar year's final opportunity for Grade 1 glory on the NYRA circuit in the 32nd running of the $750,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday, December 4.
The Cigar Mile is slated as the finale on Saturday's 10-race program, which also features the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen, a 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying race, its female counterpart race, the Grade 2 $250,000 Demoiselle Stakes, which offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points, and the Grade 3, $250,000 Go for Wand Handicap for fillies and mares going a one-turn mile. First post is 11:50 a.m. Eastern.
Since its inception in 1988, a total of 11 sophomores have bested their elders in the prestigious race, which was run as the NYRA Mile prior to 1997. This year, two 3-year-olds will vie to add to that number, including the accomplished pair of Americanrevolution and Following Sea from the stable of Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher - a four-time Cigar Mile winner.
Race 10 at Aqueduct on Saturday, December 4 - Post 4:13 PM
|1||Following Sea||5-1||John Velazquez
|4||Code of Honor||6-1||Tyler Gaffalione
|Claude McGaughey III|
|5||Independence Hall||7-2||Javier Castellano
|6||Ginobili||7-2||Drayden Van Dyke
"It's always a big race and it's the last Grade 1 in New York for the year," said Pletcher who saddled previous Cigar Mile victors Left Bank , Lion Tamer , Purge  and Stay Thirsty . "I'm not surprised that it's attracted a nice field."
Owned by WinStar Farm and CHC Inc. and bred in New York by Fred W. Hertrich III and John D. Fielding, Americanrevolution makes his return to graded company after finishing third two starts back in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby on September 25 at Parx, which was won by Hot Rod Charlie over Midnight Bourbon.
Americanrevolution, one of two sons of leading third-crop sire Constitution in the Cigar Mile, has garnered three stakes victories against his Empire State-bred counterparts by a combined 24 lengths.
After a 7 ¼-length romp in the New York Derby on July 19 at Finger Lakes, he parlayed that impressive effort into the Albany on August 27 at Saratoga, which he won by five lengths. Following the next-out Pennsylvania Derby, Americanrevolution garnered a field-best 108 Beyer Speed Figure when besting older New York-bred company by 11 3/4-lengths in the nine-furlong Empire Classic on October 30 over a sloppy and sealed Belmont Park main track.
"He's been very consistent, and he's accomplished a lot in a short period of time," Pletcher said. "He's made a lot of progress. It's another class test and he's dropping back in distance which is always a challenge, but he deserves a chance."
Pletcher, who also conditioned Constitution, expressed pride in seeing another one of his barn's alumna go on to have a successful stud career.
"He's on his way to becoming one of the top stallions in the country. He gets a little of everything - sprinters, routers, dirt, turf, fillies, colts," Pletcher said.
Luis Saez will retain the mount from post 3.
Spendthrift Farm homebred Following Sea was a troubled third in the last out Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint and seeks his second graded stakes triumph in Saturday's engagement. The son of second crop sire Runhappy was victorious in wire-to-wire fashion against multiple graded stakes winner Firenze Fire in the six-furlong Grade 2 Vosburgh on October 9 at Belmont.
Following Sea, who has never finished off the board in seven lifetime starts, was a distant third in his lone pair of starts past 6 ½ furlongs when completing the trifecta in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at nine furlongs and the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial going seven furlongs.
He broke his maiden by 5 ¾ lengths at second asking in a six-furlong maiden special weight in April at Oaklawn Park ahead of an open-length score against winners in a first-level Belmont allowance two months later.
"He still has to prove himself going further," Pletcher said. "He was impressive in the Vosburgh and his allowance race and in his maiden win sprinting. He's always given us the impression of a horse that will run further, and he's certainly built like one that would. I haven't had too many Runhappy [progeny], but with him being a sprint champion I think some people expected him to come out sooner than they really wanted to. I wouldn't be surprised that as they mature a little bit, they will continue to improve."
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Following Sea from post 1 as he and Pletcher seek their first collaborative Cigar Mile coup since joining forces 20 years ago with Left Bank.
While Americanrevolution and Following Sea are seeking breakthrough victories in the Cigar Mile, the one-turn mile will be a swan song for multiple graded stakes-winner Independence Hall who returns to Aqueduct for the first time since capturing the 2020 Jerome.
Trained by Pletcher's former assistant Michael McCarthy, Independence Hall arrives off a 7 ¼-length runaway victory at 1 1/8 miles in the Grade 2 Fayette on October 30 over a sloppy and sealed Keeneland main track, where he registered a career-best 105 Beyer.
The son of Constitution garnered plenty of warranted attention in only his second career start, when capturing the Grade 3 Nashua in November 2019 at Aqueduct by 12 ¾ lengths for former trainer Mike Trombetta.
"His race in the Fayette was very good. He loved the slop," McCarthy said. "Now he's going back to Aqueduct, the site of one of his most impressive victories, so we feel good about it. I'm excited about the turnback in distance for him."
McCarthy said Independence Hall, who was fractious in the paddock prior to his Jerome victory, does not display such mannerisms around the barn.
"He's a very talented horse," McCarthy said. "A complete gentleman around the barn so a little atypical the way he acts in the paddock compared to around the barn. He's very classy. I don't think there's a better looking horse on the grounds. He's very beautiful."
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano seeks his third Cigar Mile win in six years aboard Independence Hall, who breaks from post 5.
Trainer Richard Baltas will ship Ginobili cross-country, attempting to give the son of Munnings a second graded stakes triumph.
Owned by Baltas in partnership with Nick Casato's Slum Dunk Racing, Jerry McClanahan and Michael Nentwig, Ginobili ended a nine race losing streak in July at Del Mar capturing a one mile allowance optional claimer by 9 ¾ lengths.
He followed with a score in the Grade 2 Pat O' Brien one month later at Del Mar, which offered a "Win and You're In" berth to the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, where Ginobili finished second to Life Is Good on November 6 at Del Mar.
"He ran two good races at Del Mar, and I wanted to give him a little time between then and the Breeders' Cup," Baltas said of the spacing between starts. "We were already in the Breeders' Cup through 'Win and You're In'. He ran well against maybe the best horse in the country."
Baltas added blinkers to Ginobili for his impressive victory three starts back, which has paid back dividends for the 4-year-old gelding.
"He was the type of horse where if he's not up in the race or had horses in front or beside him, he really didn't want to go," Baltas said. "When he broke his maiden he was on the lead. In other races, when he was behind horses, he got disinterested. It's hard to say. So, I worked him blinkers and that's when he had that crazy race at Del Mar [on July 17] and he came back and won the Pat O'Brien."
Drayden Van Dyke will ride from post 6.
As the lone millionaire in the race, William S. Farish's Code of Honor boasts a field-best $2,951,320 in lifetime earnings and seeks a third Grade 1 victory for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.
During his sophomore campaign, the now 5-year-old son of Noble Mission, won the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers at Saratoga before being elevated to victory against older horses in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont.
This year, he captured the Grade 3 Phillip H. Iselin in August at Monmouth Park. He enters from a last out second to Independence Hall in the Fayette.
Although scheduled to join the 2022 stallion roster at Farish's Lanes' End Farm in Midway, Kentucky, the Cigar Mile might not be a final career start for Code of Honor.
"He's doing very well," said McGaughey. "He's obviously been very good to me over the years. He'll go to stud next year, but whether this will be his final start, we're not sure yet."
Tyler Gaffalione will ride from post 4.
Bill Mott will attempt a fourth victory in a race named after one of the greatest horses he has ever trained when the Hall of Famer saddles 3-year-old Olympiad.
Owned by Grandview Equine, Cheyenne Stable and LNJ Foxwoods, Olympiad defeated older winners last out in a first-level allowance at Keeneland going seven furlongs. He broke his maiden in October 2020 against subsequent stakes winners Caddo River and Greatest Honour travelling the same distance at Belmont Park.
"We've always liked him," Mott said. "We thought last year he was one of the best two colts we had. It's a big step up, no question."
Joel Rosario will ride from post 7.
Completing the Cigar Mile lineup are Shortleaf Stable's Plainsman [post 2, Manny Franco], who captured the Grade 3 Ack Ack in October at Churchill Downs two starts back for trainer Brad Cox, and John D. Gunther and Eurowest Bloodstock's Pipeline [post 8, Jose Ortiz] who broke his maiden going seven furlongs at Saratoga two starts back and will attempt to give four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown his second Cigar Mile win.
The Cigar Mile honors Allen Paulson's all-time great, who from 1994-96 equaled 1948 Triple Crown winner Citation's modern-day North American record of 16 consecutive victories, a record which has since been broken twice. Cigar's unprecedented win streak included victories in the Breeder's Cup Classic, Donn Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Oaklawn Handicap, and Pimlico Special. Trained by Mott and ridden primarily by Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, Cigar retired with nearly $10 million in lifetime earnings and resided at the Kentucky Horse Park upon his retirement until passing in 2014. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2002.
NOV 28 - Independence Hall breezed a bullet half-mile in 46.80 Saturday at Churchill Downs in his final piece of work for the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Saturday, December 4.
"I'm very happy with the way he worked," trainer Michael McCarthy said. "We wanted to go ahead and put a little air in his lungs and that's definitely what we got. A race like the Cigar Mile doesn't come around very often and we wanted to make sure we're nice and sharp."
Owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Twin Creeks Racing Stables, WinStar Farm, Kathleen Verratti and Robert Verratti, the 4-year-old Constitution colt boasts a 2-for-2 record at the Big A that includes a 12 1/4-length score in the 2019 Grade 3 Nashua and a four-length win in the 2020 Jerome, both at a one-turn mile for his former conditioner Michael Trombetta.
Independence Hall made his first start for McCarthy in November 2020 at Del Mar, winning a 6 1/2-furlong optional-claiming sprint ahead of a fifth in the seven-furlong Grade 1 Malibu in December 2020 at Santa Anita.
The dark bay demonstrated class while chasing the victorious Knicks Go with a third-place effort in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup in January at Gulfstream and a pressing second in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Lukas Classic in October at Churchill Downs.
McCarthy said Independence Hall has benefitted from the addition of blinkers three starts back when fifth off a four-month layoff in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic in August at Del Mar
"The blinkers have helped him focus a little bit and dial him in a little more," McCarthy said. "The Pacific Classic was unfortunate coming off of a long layoff and going a mile and a quarter. It just didn't seem like he was as tight as he could have been but as you can see it certainly moved him forward."
Last out, Independence Hall, romped to a 7 1/4-length score over Cigar Mile-rival Code of Honor in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Fayette contested over a sloppy track on October 30 at Keeneland.
McCarthy confirmed Hall of Famer Javier Castellano will retain the mount aboard Independence Hall, who will ship to New York on Monday.
NOV 27 - Graded-stakes winner Ginobili breezed five-eighths in 59.60 Friday at San Luis Rey Training Center in preparation for next Saturday's Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap.
Trained and co-owned by Richard Baltas with Slam Dunk Racing, Richard McClanahan and Michael Nentwig, Ginobili is named for Manu Ginobili, a retired basketball player who starred for the San Antonio Spurs.
"It was an excellent work," Baltas said on Friday evening. "He galloped out in 1:12 and 1 and out in 1:26 and did it in a gallop. I was really happy with the way he worked. He was more relaxed than usual."
The 4-year-old Munnings bay, a $35,000 purchase at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, graduated at second asking sprinting six furlongs in August 2019 at Del Mar ahead of fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity.
That effort was followed by a difficult run of form with Ginobili hitting the board just once in his next four starts to conclude his sophomore season in October 2020.
Ginobili was given a lengthy layoff and returned in May to finish off-the-board in a turf sprint and fourth in a main-track sprint in June at Santa Anita. But the addition of blinkers and a stretch out in distance in July saw Ginobili end a nine-race losing streak with a two-turn score in a one-mile optional-claimer at Del Mar that garnered a career-best 104 Beyer.
Ginobili followed that effort by besting multiple graded stakes winner C Z Rocket in the seven-furlong Grade 2 Pat O'Brien in August at Del Mar, a "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Ginobili performed admirably in the Dirt Mile, completing the exacta behind Life Is Good.
Baltas said that Ginobili, who was gelded in June 2020, benefitted from a number of changes.
"I turned him out and we did a minor surgery [ankle chip] on him and gave him some time and brought him back as much sounder horse as a 4-year-old," Baltas said. "The blinkers were a big deal and the stretch out - it's been a combination of things. We're excited that he's done what he's done this year and we're hoping that will continue."
Baltas said Ginobili was slated to ship to New York on Saturday.
NOV 27 - Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher worked graded stakes winner Following Sea and multiple New York-bred stakes winner Americanrevolution in company this morning at Belmont Park in preparation for next Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Both horses completed their half-mile moves over the dirt training track rated fast in 49.21 seconds.
Owned by Spendthrift Farm, Following Sea rounded out the trifecta behind Aloha West and Dr. Schivel in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint on November 6 at Del Mar. The son of second crop sire Runhappy entered the Sprint from a solid score against older company in the Grade 2 Vosburgh on October 9 at Belmont Park.
Americanrevolution, a CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm owned Constitution colt, enters the Cigar Mile off an 11 ¾-length romp against fellow Empire State-breds in the Empire Classic on October 30 at Belmont, where he produced a 108 Beyer Speed Figure.
"They both went well," said Pletcher, a four-time winner of the Cigar Mile. "It was a good breeze for them both with a solid gallop out. They both seem to be happy and healthy, knock on wood."
Since 2000, seven 3-year-olds have bested elders in the Cigar Mile, which is the final Grade 1 event on the NYRA circuit for the calendar year.
In his last start before going to stud, Aron Wellman, managing partner of the syndicate, said multiple graded stakes winner Independence Hall is confirmed for the final Grade 1 race at NYRA for the calendar year.
Wellman added that Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Aloha West could also run in the Cigar Mile in pursuit of an Eclipse Award for Champion Sprinter.
"Independence Hall is definite pending his next work at Churchill," Wellman said. "The Cigar Mile is under consideration for Aloha West, but no decisions have been made."
Trained by Michael McCarthy, Independence Hall registered a career-best 105 Beyer Speed Figure last out when going gate-to-wire in the Grade 2 Fayette on October 30 over a sloppy and sealed Keeneland main track.
Owned in partnership with Twin Creeks Racing Stables, WinStar Farm, Kathleen Verratti and Robert Verratti, the son of Constitution is 2-for-2 at a one-turn mile at Aqueduct when romping to a 12 ¼-length victory in the Grade 3 Nashua in November 2019 followed by a four-length score in the Jerome on New Year's Day 2020.
Aloha West, a two-time winner at Saratoga this summer, returned to the work tab on Wednesday morning for trainer Wayne Catalano, recording a half-mile move in 49.40 over the Fair Grounds Race Course main track.
"We wanted to put the Cigar Mile in play, which is why we breezed Wednesday, but we're monitoring him closely ahead of the race," Wellman said. "That workout was designed to try to get a gauge on if we should pursue the race or not."
A victory would make Aloha West the first horse to capture both the Breeders' Cup Sprint and Cigar Mile. Prior to his last out coup, which saw a 100 Beyer, the Maryland-bred son of Hard Spun was second beaten a neck in the Grade 2 Phoenix on October 8 at Keeneland.
Probable: Americanrevolution (Todd Pletcher), Code of Honor (Shug McGaughey), Following Sea (Pletcher), Ginobili (Richard Baltas), Independence Hall (Michael McCarthy), Ny Traffic (Saffie Joseph, Jr.), Olympiad (Bill Mott)
Possible: Aloha West (Wayne Catalano), Plainsman (Brad Cox)
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