Connect outduels Divining Rod to take Cigar Mile

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

November 26th, 2016

Three-year-olds continued to have their way with the nation's leading older horses on Saturday when 3-2 favorite Connect edged Divining Rod after a furious stretch duel in the $500,000 Cigar Mile H. (G1) at Aqueduct.

The victory by Connect concluded an outstanding month of November by the sophomore crop after Arrogate won the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita on November 5 and Gun Runner prevailed in the Clark H. (G1) at Churchill Downs on Friday.

Connect had fended off Gun Runner by a half-length to win the September 24 Pennsylvania Derby (G2) in his previous start, and trainer Chad Brown's decision to wait for the Cigar Mile rather than ship west for the Breeders' Cup paid dividends Saturday.

Slightly wide in mid-pack as Anchor Down and Threefiveindia traded leads through splits of :23.31 and :46.44, Connect improved his position around the turn as Divining Rod pounced to grab the lead from the two duelers after six furlongs in 1:11.

Divining Rod opened up 1 1/2-length advantage at the eighth pole, but Connect got on even terms in deep stretch and, despite some brushes between the two, got the nod by a head under Javier Castellano.

Owned by Paul Pompa Jr., Connect paid $5 after completing the course in 1:35.34 on a fast track.

Divining Rod was second, and there was a five-length gap back to 17-1 longshot Realm, who edged 44-1 chance War Story by a neck. Anchor Down weakened to fifth.

Third in his debut at Aqueduct last December, Connect was out of action until May 7 when he score a maiden victory at Belmont by four lengths. Following a 3 3/4-length allowance win the next month, Connect made his stakes debut in the $100,000 Curlin at Saratoga on July 29, winning by a length.

In the Travers (G1), Connect finished sixth, beaten more than 21 lengths, by Arrogate. The field also included Gun Runner and classic winner Exaggerator, but Brown revealed later that Connect did not scope well afterwards. The colt rebounded to take the Pennsylvania Derby as a 10-1 chance. His record now stands at 7-5-0-1, $1,250,000.

"He showed a lot today beating older horses," Brown said. "We've always thought a lot of this horse, and I can't say enough about Paul Pompa, the owner. He was so patient with this horse. Every time there was a little set back with this horse or some unfortunate news, although never anything terrible with this horse, Paul took it right in stride and said, 'We know we have a good one. Let's take it right in stride and do right by the horse and he'll do right by us.' I appreciate very much the amount of time he's allowed me to work with this horse. It's paid off."

Connect is by Curlin and out of the Holy Bull mare Bullville Belle, who also reared multiple stakes winner Tani Maru. He was bred in Kentucky by Fox Straus and brought $150,000 from the Fasig-Tipton July sale in 2014.

(Adam Coglianese Photography)