DEL MAR, Calif. -- A lone figure in red, white and blue silks sat at the long table in the interview room. Jerry Bailey, jockey of Cigar, had come to face the music.
Usually reserved for winners, the interview room at every racetrack is a place for smiles and congratulations. And here on the fourth floor at Del Mar, a lovely spot near San Diego, it even affords a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean.
But yesterday, Bailey stared ahead in silence. And then the questions, politely asked, sensitively phrased, began. "If the blame comes my way, I'll take it, because I'm the one who made the decision," said the Hall of Fame jockey. "I didn't think it was a killer pace. But when I got to the three-eighths pole I knew that if somebody was going to come at me, I was going to be in trouble today."
Dare and Go came at him. He was in trouble. And Cigar's streak was history.
The historic 16-race win streak of the Maryland-bred Cigar ended in the $1 million Pacific Classic. For the first time since October 1994, when Cigar launched his streak, Team Cigar miscalculated.
Bailey and Bill Mott, Cigar's trainer, decided before the race that Cigar should stay close to the speedster Siphon, fearing that the Brazilian import might open up an insurmountable lead.
But Cigar ran too fast chasing Siphon, and then another horse, Dramatic Gold, pressured Cigar down the backstretch.
Bailey said he feared getting boxed in between Siphon on the inside and Dramatic Gold on the outside, so he urged Cigar to run even faster. Cigar left them both behind, but was helpless to hold off a charging Dare and Go down the homestretch.
"The fractions took a toll on him," Bailey said of the sizzling early pace. "I knew at the quarter-pole I didn't have a lot of horse left."
Bailey answered every question, finally saying:
"I'm dumbfounded. Everything went so well up to the race. He was training beautifully. I thought he'd probably give me an unbelievable performance. Maybe he did. Maybe I asked him for too much."
Mott followed Bailey to the table.
"The loss may have been an error in judgment on my part," Mott said. "I knew when they went 45 [seconds] and change for the half-mile, that was too fast. . . .
"But I don't think any less of the horse. I don't think any less of Jerry. I hope I have the same thoughts about myself afterward."
The mood in the room changed dramatically when Richard Mandella entered. Trainer of the winner Dare and Go, as well as third-place finisher Siphon, Mandella had suffered through a miserable week, losing his biggest star, Soul of the Matter, to a career-ending injury.
Soul of the Matter was training for a showdown with Cigar. In the $4 million Dubai World Cup in March, Soul of the Matter challenged Cigar down the stretch as no horse had during the streak. The rematch was greatly anticipated.
L But Mandella's second- and third-string filled in admirably.
"How fortunate am I to have two horses like this behind him?" Mandella said. "I thought Siphon had the best chance of $H anybody to beat Cigar. I thought Dare and Go had a shot to get part of it."
A 5-year-old son of Alydar, Dare and Go is a moderately talented horse who benefited this day from the fast early pace.
Mandella described him as a horse with talent who seldom shows it. "But realistically," Mandella said, "I never thought Cigar could get beat."
NOTE: Cigar's streak may be over, but the fanfare isn't.
"Cigar: America's Horse" will be in bookstores in time for the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup Classic at Woodbine, where the Maryland-bred 1995 Horse of the Year is likely to wind up his career.
Written by award-winning turf writer Jay Hovdey and published by The Blood-Horse Inc., the book will chronicle Cigar's career through yesterday's Pacific Classic. It also will tell the story of the human contingent of Team Cigar: owner and breeder Allen E. Paulson, trainer Mott and jockey Bailey.
"For many racing fans," said Ray Paulick, vice president and editorial director for The Blood-Horse, "Cigar is the horse of a lifetime."
Also available this fall will be the official 1997 Cigar calendar, published by the Russell Meerdink Co. in cooperation with Paulson and CMG Worldwide Inc., the company Paulson hired to handle marketing for his horse.
The calendar will feature color photographs of Cigar, as well as trivia and career milestones. It will sell for $15.95 beginning Sept. 30 at tracks, gift shops and tack stores.
Finally, Kentucky artist Cindy Wolf has been commissioned to create a life-sized bronze statue of Cigar. It will be unveiled next year as the centerpiece of Gulfstream Park's "Garden of Champions," which contains 86 bronze plaques of other champions who raced at the track near Fort Lauderdale, Fla. During his historic streak, Cigar won four races at Gulfstream Park: an allowance race, two Donn handicaps and one Gulfstream Park Handicap.
16 and out: Cigar's streak
Date .. .. Race .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Dis. .. .. .Track
10/8/94 ..Allowance race .. .. .. .. .. ...1M .. .. .Aqueduct