Cigar chases history today Weight, quality field hurdles in No. 16 bid

July 13, 1996|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. -- At 3: 55 p.m. yesterday, under gray skies that quickly turned bright, Cigar and Unbridled's Song were led into tidy barns at Arlington International Racecourse.

After flying together on the same plane from New York, they arrived at this glorious track outside Chicago for a race today that will be televised around the world: the $1.05 million Arlington Citation Challenge, in which the Maryland-bred Cigar will try to equal Citation's 46-year-old record of 16 consecutive wins.

Post time will be 5: 41 p.m. EST.

Arlington owner Dick Duchossois created this 1 1/8 -mile race to lure Cigar to the Midwest. It's not surprising that Cigar came; he needed a race at this time after recovering from a foot bruise that disrupted his schedule. But it is surprising that nine horses, including several good ones whose connections whisper upset, are here to take on the greatest thoroughbred in the world.

"You hang a carrot over a million dollars, and you're going to get their attention," said Allen E. Paulson, Cigar's owner, as his 6-year-old bay horse walked the shedrow. "I want him to beat every top horse in the world. If they don't come, he can't beat them. So I'm glad they're here."

Bill Mott, Cigar's trainer, after washing the attentive, glistening champion, said he was surprised at how many top horses answered the challenge, especially Unbridled's Song.

"Mr. D put on a race," Mott said, referring to Duchossois. "And he got the two highest-profile horses in America, perhaps the two highest-profile horses in the world.

"Unbridled's Song is probably one of the more talented horses in training today. I thought all along that later in the year he's a horse Cigar would have to contend with. I am a little surprised we're going to meet him this early in the year."

This matchup alone -- with Cigar breaking from the outside No. 10 post and Unbridled's Song menacingly close in No. 9 -- provides the intrigue necessary for a memorable horse race.

And breaking from the other end of the gate, out of the No. 1 post, will be Honour and Glory, the speedball trained by D. Wayne Lukas.

Unbridled's Song, the beaten Kentucky Derby favorite, and Honour and Glory, the Derby pacesetter, are both upstart 3-year-olds and gain a decided weight break against the 6-year-old Cigar.

Honour and Glory will carry 116 pounds, Unbridled's Song 118 and Cigar 130.

In an unusual morning line -- the track's estimate of the betting odds -- Cigar is 1-5, Unbridled's Song 5-1 and Honour and Glory 8-1. The other seven entrants, although clearly not equal in ability, are 30-1.

Five of the seven are legitimate: Dramatic Gold, winner of $1.5 million; Eltish, second in the 1994 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and sixth in last year's Kentucky Derby; Polar Expedition, the richest Illinois-bred in history and an early-speed challenger to Honour and Glory; Tenants Harbor, a late-charging demon from Kentucky, and Jambalaya Jazz, six-length winner in the Grade III Sea O' Erin Handicap here at Arlington.

The other two, Wild Syn and Dr. Banting, are true pretenders. Dr. Banting is from Maryland, but don't try to place a show bet on the 5-year-old gelding.

Only win, exacta and trifecta betting will be offered. Duchossois is paying for this race out of his own pocket, so he didn't want "bridge jumpers" laying down thousands of dollars on Cigar to place or show, creating minus pools and costing Duchossois even more money.

The most questionable gamble in the race is the running of Unbridled's Song.

Prematurely crowned the year's top 3-year-old, Unbridled's Song has suffered a foot injury, lung infection and ulcers. His owner, Ernie Paragallo, chose this immensely tough spot for his fragile colt's comeback race.

Is that wise?

"That's debatable," said Jim Ryerson, Unbridled's Song trainer, in a remarkably candid reponse. "Ernie felt it was time to take a little shot. We'll see what happens."

Cigar already is the richest thoroughbred in North America with earnings of $8,069,815. A win today would add $750,000 to that pot.

But this race is for more than money. Along with Man o' War and Secretariat, Citation is considered one of top three thoroughbreds of all time. Cigar may never crack that granite three, but today he can equal Citation's long-standing record (16 straight wins in the 20th-century for horses based in North

America).

And next month at Del Mar, September at Belmont Park and October at Woodbine, Cigar will make further argument for his place in history.

"I'm not nervous, I'm anxious," said Mott, the trainer. "But I feel a certain amount of pressure because I see all these people waving Cigar banners and wearing Cigar hats and T-shirts. I don't want to let them down."

Pub Date: 7/13/96

Fact box

What: Arlington Citation Challenge.

Where: Arlington International Racecourse, near Chicago.

When: Today, post time 5: 41 p.m.

Who: Cigar, trying to tie Citation's record of 16 straight wins, faces nine other horses.

Distance: 1 1/8 miles.

Purse: $1.05 million.

# TV: Channels 13, 9.

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