Private Zone seeks repeat in Cigar Mile
Although a two-time winner of the Vosburgh (G1), Private Zone has arguably done his best work at seven furlongs and beyond the past few seasons. That has never been more evident than in the Cigar Mile, where the six-year-old gelding finished a strong second to Flat Out two years ago and then blitzed eight rivals in winning by five lengths last year.
So imposing does Private Zone look that he was made the 6-5 morning line favorite for this renewal, which marks his first start for new trainer Brian Lynch. Only Congaree, in 2002-03, has captured the Cigar MIle more than once.
The base purse of the Cigar Mile is $500,000, while previous Grade 1 winners will run for $750,000. In addition to Private Zone, Tonalist and Mshawish also qualify for the added cash.
Last year's Belmont S. (G1) winner, Tonalist won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) for a second time two starts back and also captured his season debut in the Westchester (G3). However, the Tapit colt disappointed during the summer, losing as the favorite in the Metropolitan H. (G1), Suburban H. (G2), and Whitney (G1).
A non-threatening fifth in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) last time, Tonalist will wear blinkers Saturday for the first time since the June 6 Met Mile.
Mshawish, who captured the Gulfstream Park Turf H. (G1) in February, will be racing on dirt for the first time Saturday. The five-year-old by Medaglia d'Oro was a Group 2 winner in Dubai prior to his re-importation, and went back there in March and finished a solid third to world-class miler Solow in the Dubai Turf (G1).
Mshawish has made two starts since, running fifth in the Fourstardave H. (G2) at Saratoga and fourth in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1).
Others of note in the Cigar Mile are Red Vine, who's placed in four straight graded stakes including the Pacific Classic (G1), Kelso H. (G2), and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1); Matrooh, last-out winner of the Bold Ruler H. (G3); and Marking, a regally-bred three-year-old who has captured his two starts convincingly for Godolphin.
The top three finishers from the November 4 Nashua (G2) -- Mohaymen, Flexibility, and Sail Ahoy -- will square off again in the $300,000 Remsen (G2), a nine-furlong test for two-year-olds.
Mohaymen was the even-money favorite in the one-mile Nashua, and prevailed from off the pace to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Flexibility finished a neck ahead of Sail Ahoy for the place.
Also expected to attract serious attention is Gift Box, who captured a highly-rated October 3 maiden at Belmont by a nose over subsequent blowout maiden winner Matt King Coal. Owner Will Farish won the Remsen two years ago with Honor Code.
All four of the main Remsen protagonists are individual entries in this week's first pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW).
The $300,000 Demoiselle (G2), for two-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles, attracted a field of seven. Three are trained by Todd Pletcher including Thrilled, who finished second in the $100,000 P.G. Johnson and the Miss Grillo (G3) on grass before finishing up the track in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).
Also likely to attract play are the Pletcher-trained Lost Raven, winner of the $100,000 Smart Halo at Laurel; Flora Dora, runner-up in the Tempted (G3) last time; and dominating maiden scorer Lewis Bay for trainer Chad Brown.
The Phipps Stable homebred Carrumba, a two-time allowance winner during the Belmont fall meet, could be a serious factor in her stakes debut Saturday in the $300,000 Comely (G3). The nine-furlong test for three-year-old fillies has also attracted graded stakes-winning or -placed rivals Peace and War, Wonder Gal, Pangburn, Temper Mint Patty, and Forever Unbridled.
(NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)