Cigar loses rival for Pacific Soul of the Matter lame after workout, won't race Saturday

August 08, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- They flocked to the racetrack at 6: 45 yesterday on a hot summer morning to watch him in his final dress rehearsal. And they saw the great Cigar make a regal farewell appearance before flying 3,000 miles on another journey into history.

Cigar races Saturday in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar, near San Diego, trying to break Citation's 16-race winning streak. He lost one of his chief rivals during a workout yesterday morning at Del Mar, when Soul of the Matter came back lame with a strained suspensory ligament in the right front leg.

Soul of the Matter's trainer, Richard Mandella, said he wasn't certain yet but, "I'm afraid it's the end of his career." The 5-year-old Soul of the Matter ran second to Cigar in March in the $4 million Dubai World Cup and was an early second choice at 3-1 in the Pacific Classic.

Cigar will fly from Albany at 6 o'clock this morning with his trainer, Bill Mott, who said: "He is fit and ready to race."

He now will face five rivals at Del Mar. If he wins, he breaks the tie that he shares with Citation. If he loses, he will fly 3,000 miles back home, holding his half of the modern record for success in racing and holding earnings of more than $9 million.

Although it was only a workout, Cigar's valedictory performance at Saratoga was well advertised with appeals to his public not to miss the moment. And sure enough, a couple of thousand fans lined the railing of the homestretch by the dawn's early light when he walked onto the track under his regular jockey, Jerry Bailey, accompanied by Mott on the stable pony Snowball.

The spectators had been asked not to applaud for fear of upsetting other horses working out in customarily quiet surroundings. So, they more or less remained silent when Bailey led the 6-year-old Cigar through a quarter-mile in 23 1/5 seconds, three-eighths of a mile in 35 1/5 seconds and five-eighths of a mile in 1: 00 4/5. Not bad for a horse who at times disdained workouts and who suffered a cracked heel five months ago.

"I've been anxious the last few days," Mott said. "We changed his shoes and redid the patch over the weekend, and getting him there healthy is my concern.

"The foot problems are never behind him. You think about them all the time. You think how to prevent them, how to keep them from coming back, and you check several times a day.

"But he's fit and ready. It's a respectable, full-dimensional field. There's speed, closers, stalker, and then you've got Cigar."

Cigar's chances of breaking the record will be enhanced by the fact that the Classic is not a handicap; the horses run at equal weights of 124 pounds. His five rivals include Siphon, winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup, and Tinner's Way, who won the Pacific Classic the last two years.

Cigar warmed up by jogging around the private training track of the old Greentree compound outside the Saratoga Race Course, then he walked to the main course of the main track and stopped like a prima donna for 10 minutes before taking the track.

Then he stepped onto the main track, where he ran his workout while Mott basked and the people watched in wonder.

"I was really enjoying the moment," Mott said. "It's something I'll remember for a long time, something I've not seen before. I told Jerry to stop for a bit; people seemed grateful for a chance to see him up close. "

As for the record, Mott kept his cool.

"The record isn't what I'm thinking about," he said. "I'm thinking about him. The record is just a measurement of his accomplishments."

Pub Date: 8/08/96

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