Cigar triumphs in Citation Challenge 16th straight victory ties century's record

July 14, 1996|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. -- On the same track where the legendary Citation made his final public appearance nearly a half-century ago, a modestly bred horse, born in a barn in Maryland, joined him yesterday on history's mantel.

Cigar, the Maryland-bred who became horse of the world, gunned his engines around the final turn, reached into his heart down the stretch, and won the $1.05 million Citation Challenge at Arlington International Racecourse.

The win, Cigar's 16th in a row, matched Citation's remarkable streak set from 1948 to 1950. It is the 20th-century record for horses based in North America.

Although historians may correlate and scholars may pontificate,

Allen E. Paulson, Cigar's wealthy, soft-spoken owner, perhaps said it best: "Everybody seems to love Cigar."

His races are spectacles.

Yesterday, 34,223 fans crammed this beautiful race track near Chicago. They lined the paddock six to 10 deep, straining for a glance at the bay horse.

Bands played. Lines stretched long at stands selling Cigar hats, mugs and T-shirts.

Sky divers landed on the track in front of the immaculate grandstand. And Cigar, the consummate performer, brought the crowd to its feet.

He did it in typical Cigar fashion. After stalking the early speed out of the starting gate, around the first bend and down the long and distant backstretch, he accelerated entering the final turn, blew past the tiring leaders around the final turn and finished off the hangers-on down the homestretch.

Paying a mere $2.60 to win, Cigar completed the 1 1/8 -mile race 3 1/2 lengths ahead of a game Dramatic Gold. There was no place or show betting.

Eltish, charging hard after early trouble, finished third.

The Maryland long shot, Dr. Banting, finished sixth at 103-to-1 odds. But he beat Unbridled's Song, the bettors' second choice at 9-to-2, who crossed the wire ninth in the 10-horse field.

But those horses weren't Citation, whose ghostly presence was strong.

After winning the Triple Crown in 1948, after becoming horse-racing's first million-dollar winner in 1951, Citation galloped around this track July 28, 1951, in his farewell public appearance.

Along with Secretariat and Man o' War, Citation is ranked as one of the top thoroughbreds of all time. Cigar is at least in the second tier. And his reputation grows along with his winning streak.

Cigar will attempt to break Citation's record Aug. 10 in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, Calif.

Asked whether Cigar is better than Citation, Cigar's trainer, Bill Mott, said: "Unless they actually met on the race track, we wouldn't know.

"But I'm thrilled and honored that Cigar is mentioned in the same breath as Citation. Cigar is a once-in-a-lifetime horse."

Born April 18, 1990, at Country Life Farm in Harford County, the unnamed foal spent his first three months in Maryland.

Then, at Paulson's Brookside Farm near Lexington, Ky., he earned the nickname "Hammer" for his aggressiveness.

When he finally was named, he was not named after a cigar. Paulson, an avid pilot, named the colt after an aviation checkpoint in the Gulf of Mexico.

Cigar didn't race as a 2-year-old, and he spent most of his 3- and 4-year-old campaigns struggling on turf tracks.

Only when Mott shifted him back to the dirt -- Oct. 28, 1994, at Aqueduct -- did Cigar become invincible.

He has not lost since. His most thrilling victory was March 27 halfway around the globe in the world's richest horse race, the $4 million Dubai World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

For the first time during his streak, Cigar was challenged in the stretch. He responded as much with heart as talent, and won with heroic courage.

The $2.4 million winner's purse made him the richest thoroughbred ever to race in North America.

Yesterday's $750,000 prize swelled his lifetime earnings to $8,819,815.

He triumphed despite the outside No. 10 post and wide positioning throughout the race.

"He overcomes it all," said Jerry Bailey, his Hall of Fame jockey. "Everything you throw at this horse, he shrugs it off and just wins.

"I'm not an emotional guy. But it makes me want to cry every time I ride this horse. He's that good."

Pub Date: 7/14/96

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