Hoof injury may alter plans for Cigar Consecutive-wins mark may be attempted later

June 05, 1996|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

ELMONT, N.Y. -- Cigar's assault on Citation's record of 16 wins in a row has been threatened by the apparently minor injury to his right front hoof.

Bill Mott, trainer of the Maryland-bred champion, said yesterday at his barn at Belmont Park that the injury wasn't career-threatening, but that it could force Cigar to miss the $1 million Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap in California on June 30.

The Gold Cup was to be the race in which Cigar attempted to match Citation's mark of 16 straight wins set in 1948 and 1950; Citation did not race in 1949 because of an injury.

Cigar, who was born in 1990 at Country Life Farm in Harford County, won his 15th consecutive race Saturday in the Massachusetts Handicap at Boston's Suffolk Downs. The race apparently aggravated a bruise that Mott had detected two weeks before.

"Everything is on hold," Mott said.

He said that Cigar would have to begin training within a week to be ready for the Gold Cup. If Cigar misses that race, Mott said, he could run in the $500,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont on July 4 and/or the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar in California on Aug. 10.

Or, Mott said, "We could name our day elsewhere."

At least two tracks, Sam Houston Race Park in Texas and Arlington International Racecourse in Illinois, reportedly have offered to create races with $1 million purses to attract Cigar, the sport's only superstar.

Any disruption to Cigar's schedule is meaningful this late in the 6-year-old's career. His owner, Kentucky horse breeder Allen E. Paulson, has said he probably will retire Cigar after the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup Classic.

Cigar's schedule before the announcement of this injury was the Hollywood Gold Cup, the Pacific Classic, a late-summer race in New York and the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Now, Mott said, "There are no plans."

Cigar's sore foot is the same one he bruised in February while training in Florida. That injury caused Cigar to miss the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 2 and forced Mott, as he said yesterday, to cram one month of training into two weeks for the March 27 Dubai World Cup in the Middle East.

This bruise is different from the previous one, Mott said. He first detected it two weeks ago -- a thin, dark line below the bulb of the heel. If Cigar had shown any discomfort, Mott said, he would have pulled him out of the Massachusetts Handicap, even up to two hours before the race.

Cigar easily won the MassCap, but when he arrived by van back at his barn at Belmont the next day he was "a little off," Mott said. A blacksmith cut into the heel, draining pus, and now Mott is soaking Cigar's tender foot in Epsom salts and warm water.

"To a certain extent we were very fortunate to get through the race," Mott said. "But by running him I am confident we did not make anything any worse than it would have been anyway."

Pub Date: 6/05/96

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