Smoked Cigar has glum night for change 'He knew he got beat,' trainer says of horse

August 12, 1996|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

DEL MAR, Calif. -- At 6: 05 a.m. yesterday, nearly 15 hours after his horse had lost for the first time in 22 months, Bill Mott led Cigar out of his stall at Del Mar to begin the long journey home.

The itinerary called for a van ride to the Ontario (Calif.) airport, a flight to Albany, N.Y., and then a van back to his stall at Saratoga.

Cigar clumped along willingly, glancing at the scattering of reporters. He appeared to be the same content and curious horse who, the morning after his previous 16 races, had left his stall victorious.

But the Maryland-bred Cigar, after losing Saturday's Pacific Classic at the oceanside track near San Diego, had endured a rough evening.

"He was a little whipped last night," Mott said of the 6-year-old bay born at Country Life Farm in Bel Air. "He was a little lower than I've seen him after some of his races. He knew he got beat."

Cigar's exercise rider, Gerard Guenther, says some horses act differently at the barn after they lose. They sulk in their stall. They won't eat.

Since October 1994, no one had to worry about how Cigar might react, because he hadn't lost. He had won 16 races in a row, matching the modern North American record set by Citation in 1948 and 1950.

"I don't think he really knew what happened," Guenther said yesterday after observing Cigar at the barn. "But he knew a horse beat him to the wire. He knew he didn't get his picture taken, I can guarantee you that. . . .

"The most noticeable thing was he refused to eat a peppermint."

That is unheard of with Cigar. He loves peppermints. He perks up his ears at the sound of the wrapper crinkling.

"But last night," Guenther said, "he wasn't interested."

Cigar's loss sapped the enthusiasm from all associated with him.

"I had a couple of drinks and went to bed," Mott said after leading Cigar onto the long, silver van. "When I woke up there still was the reality he got beat. . . .

"We've been doing this for a long time. You keep leading the horse over there, and sure enough, he's going to get beat at some point. We realize that with all the glory and joy and success there's going to be some disappointments. This happens to be one of the disappointments."

Mott reflected upon the strategy he and Jerry Bailey, Cigar's jockey, had adopted before the race: Keep Cigar close to the front-running Siphon.

Fresh in their minds was the June 30 Hollywood Gold Cup, which Siphon won gate-to-wire. In that race Geri, trained by Mott and ridden by Bailey, could not catch Siphon.

"We wanted to keep him in range," Mott said. "Little did we know they'd go as fast as they did."

When the gate opened Saturday for the 1 1/4 -mile Pacific Classic, Siphon broke to the front, and Cigar followed closely. Cigar overtook him after one mile. But Cigar ran that mile in a blistering 1 minute 33 3/5 seconds, two-fifths of a second off the track record for a one-mile race.

"Jerry was in a tough spot," Guenther, the exercise rider, said of the jockey Bailey. "If he doesn't go with Siphon, they drill him from the front. If he does go with Siphon, they drill him from behind."

Siphon caused Cigar to run fast early. Dramatic Gold pressured Cigar down the backstretch, causing him to run fast in mid-race. The result was that Cigar was worn out at the end, unable to hold off the hard-charging Dare and Go.

"The most basic thing in horse racing beat us: pace," Mott said. "The old saying I've heard for years is pace makes the race. That's what got him. I don't know another horse that can go a mile in 33 and change and be there at the end."

Dare and Go and Siphon are both trained by Richard Mandella, regarded by some as the top trainer in the West. His one-two punch, with the assist from Dramatic Gold, accounted for one of the major upsets in racing history.

Dare and Go's win will rank with Upset's over Man o' War and Onion's over Secretariat. Hampered by chronically sore ankles, Dare and Go had managed only one victory since winning the Strub Stakes at Santa Anita Park in February 1995.

The 5-year-old son of Alydar paid $81.20 to win. His time of 1 minute, 59 4/5 was two-fifths of a second off the track record.

Dare and Go had so much left at the end, and Cigar so little, that Dare and Go scored a decisive 3 1/2 -length victory. Cigar finished seven lengths ahead of Siphon, who was followed by Dramatic Gold, Luthier Fever and Tinners Way.

Tinners Way, winner of the Pacific Classic the past two years, did not finish, apparently injuring a front leg, and left the track in a horse ambulance. But yesterday trainer Bobby Frankel said the 6-year-old son of Secretariat seemed OK.

Mott said Cigar emerged from the race healthy and probably would race next Sept. 14 in the Woodward, then possibly Oct. 5 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, both at Belmont Park.

He could probably manage both races, Mott said, but then would he be fresh for the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup at Woodbine? That's the primary goal, and most likely, Cigar's final race.

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