Being forced to go wide lights a fire under Cigar Possible record-breaker Aug. 10 in Pacific Classic

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

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. -- The Arlington Citation Challenge was created to draw Cigar to the Midwest in pursuit of Citation's record. But that didn't mean in yesterday's race that Cigar would have an easy go of it.

He was treated rudely. He drew the far outside No. 10 post position and then was forced to run wide the entire 1 1/8 miles -- and this carrying top weight of 130 pounds, 8 to 14 pounds more than his nine challengers.

"Probably my worst fears came true getting hung out [around the first turn] about as far as you can get hung out," said his jockey, Jerry Bailey.

With nine horses inside him, Cigar broke in mid-pack, ensuring a long trip around the first turn. He was five wide as 3-year-old speedster Honour and Glory streaked on the lead. The hometown favorite, Polar Expedition, rambled at Honour and Glory's side. Right behind them raced Eltish and Dramatic Gold.

Cigar, the 1-5 favorite, and Unbridled's Song, the 9-2 second choice, were close behind on the outside. But then, nearing the far turn, Cigar began to run, and Unbridled's Song began to fade.

The 3-year-old son of Unbridled, the beaten favorite in the Kentucky Derby, was racing for the first time since treatment for a lung infection and ulcers. He also had been hindered by a sore left foot.

"[Unbridled's Song] appeared to give it up at the half-mile pole," said Bill Mott, Cigar's trainer. "When Cigar went by him, he said: 'See you later.' "

Unbridled's Song finished ninth, beating only one horse, the 104-1 Wild Syn, who trotted across the wire more than 50 lengths tardy.

But Cigar, zooming around the final turn, passed the early leaders. When his No. 10 flashed onto the tote board, indicating that he had moved into third place, the crowd of 34,223 roared. And when he turned for home, outside Dramatic Gold, the roar grew louder.

"Nakatani forced Cigar wide," said Bailey, referring to Dramatic Gold's jockey Corey Nakatani. "It kind of made me and Cigar both pretty mad. He dug in and eyeballed Dramatic Gold, and then put him away in the stretch."

Cigar's time was 1 minute, 48 1/5 seconds, two seconds slower than Secretariat's 1980 track record.

Now that Cigar has equaled Citation's North American thoroughbred mark 16 consecutive victories, he'll try to surpass it Aug. 10 in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar racetrack in California.

As Bailey returned to the winner's circle, he stood in the stirrups and raised his cap to crowd. For several minutes the cheers continued.

"I'm not sure Cigar doesn't know all the applause is for him," Mott said.

"He's the most intelligent horse I've ever ridden," added Bailey. "If a guy can't get attached to Cigar, he must be made of stone."

If all goes well, and Cigar's right front foot, which bothers him from time to time, stays sound, the 6-year-old horse will race at Del Mar, once or twice at Belmont Park and then probably end his career Oct. 26 in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Woodbine near Toronto.

"We've got something people want to see," Mott said, responding to a question about Cigar's traveling road show. "Cigar's the product. And so far he hasn't let anybody down."

The Challenge was televised nationally as well as to Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan. The Maryland-bred Cigar no longer is merely America's horse. He is an international celebrity.

NOTES: Not only was a Maryland-bred horse the star of the Arlington Citation Challenge, but also a Maryland artist was the star of the souvenir program and poster.

Michael Geraghty, a 34-year-old artist from Laurel, painted the image of Cigar and Bailey, the jockey, that appeared on about 40,000 race-day programs and the race's commemorative poster.

Geraghty grew up across the street from Laurel Park. The work that earned him nationwide acclaim was the memorable stretch run of Sunday Silence and Easy Goer in the 1989 Preakness.

Yesterday, Geraghty manned his booth displaying prints of, among others, Secretariat and Strike The Gold, and an unframed Cigar for $125. Sales were brisk. "This is turning out so much bigger than I expected," he said, accepting another customer's credit card.

Thoroughbred winning streaks

20th Century

16: Citation (foaled in 1945), *Ribot (1953); x-Cigar (1990).

15: *Pretty Polly (1901); Colin (1905); Buckpasser (1963); *Brigadier Gerard (1968).

14: Man o'War (1917); *Phar Lap (1926); Nearco (1935).

13: Personal Ensign (1984).

12: *Morvich (1919); Spectacular Bid (1976).

* Non-North American horse

Pub Date: 7/14/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.