Moments In Time: October 28, 1994 - Cigar

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Alastair Bull

December 21st, 2017

Notable Moments in Horse Racing History: The start of Cigar's undefeated run.

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Cigar began his winning streak in a Friday allowance race at Aqueduct in 1994.

October 28, 1994 would have seemed like just another day at the races for anyone who went to Aqueduct Racetrack in New York. Four claiming races on dirt, two maiden special weights, one allowance on turf, and two one-mile allowances on dirt.

Nobody there had any idea the day would be historic.

In race six, the less valuable of the two dirt allowance miles, a frustrating 4-year-old is trying something different. Because he was by Palace Music, a grade one winner on turf in England and the United States, it’s assumed he will be best on turf, and he started running on grass after winning his maiden on dirt at his second start.

But after a promising start, which included a couple of graded stakes placings in California, his turf form has tailed off. Switched from the West Coast to the East Coast stable of Bill Mott, he ran four times on turf in New York, with his best effort a couple of third-place finishes.

Mott then decided to give the Allen Paulson-owned 4-year-old turf-bred another chance at dirt, and entered him in the one-mile allowance. With Mike Smith aboard, he started third favorite in a field of six.

What happened is something that could not have been predicted. The real Cigar emerged.

Smith had Cigar out four wide in the initial stages, close to the lead, as the field zoomed through the first quarter-mile in 22.42 seconds. Cigar then moved up to the favorite Golden Plover, and strode to the lead about the half-mile pole.

Soon after, an astonished racecaller Tom Durkin told listeners “a half-mile, could it be, in 44 and three-fifth seconds? Around the far turn, Cigar leading the way, perhaps it was too fast?”

It wasn’t. From there, Cigar strolled away. He had a four-length lead at the top of the stretch, was 10 lengths in front near the finish, before easing up to win by eight lengths.

Durkin continued to be astonished. “Cigar is just waltzing home here. He crushed his rivals,” he said. “Here’s the line … no ‘butts’ about it, it was Cigar, much the best.”

Cigar stepped up to grade one company a month later for the NYRA Mile at Aqueduct (since renamed the Cigar Mile), thrashing a classy field of 12 by seven lengths. The rest is history.

The allowance race was the first victory in a sequence of 16 wins that Cigar would put together, equaling a top-level American record set by the mighty Triple Crown winner Citation. The wins would include the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic and the inaugural Dubai World Cup in 1996.

Many people remember the big victories. But few were there for the start of it. It shows that great moments in racing history can come at any time.