Cigar's jockey criticizes Nakatani for Pacific ride Dramatic Gold's rider accused of trying to tire favorite with fast pace

August 16, 1996|By FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM

Immediately after Cigar finished second in Saturday's Pacific Classic, jockey Jerry Bailey shouldered the blame for the upset that ended the Maryland-bred horse's 16-race win streak.

A few days later, however, Bailey pointed an accusatory finger at Corey Nakatani, who guided Dramatic Gold to a fourth-place finish.

Bailey accuses Nakatani of riding to beat Cigar instead of trying to win the $1 million race with his own mount. Nakatani, one of the leading jockeys on the Southern California circuit, counters that Bailey rode a poor race and wants to lay blame elsewhere.

Nakatani pushed Dramatic Gold early in the race to move alongside front-running Siphon and Cigar. Bailey says that accelerated the pace and forced the suicidal mile in 1 minute, 33 3/5 seconds that weakened all three horses for the final quarter-mile.

"I would have been fine with what I was doing had Nakatani not had it in his mind to bury Cigar one way or another," Bailey said. "He made the statement on a radio show that his job was to bury the favorite.

"Once you go an eighth of a mile, you're kind of committed to go with the game plan. If Corey Nakatani decides to ram Dramatic Gold down my throat for a continuous mile, I made my bed and had to lie in it."

Bailey also had a run-in with Nakatani last month in the Arlington Citation Challenge won by Cigar. Bailey said after that race that Nakatani carried him wide around the second turn aboard runner-up Dramatic Gold.

Nakatani, who said he had instructions to stay within three lengths of the lead in the Pacific Classic, disputes the contention that he was out only to beat Cigar.

Bailey "can be as ticked off as he wants," Nakatani said. "I go out there trying to win. Because of the fact that Jerry rode a bad race, he's going to try to take it out on somebody else.

"I'm trying to beat the favorite every time I go out there. If you're on a 4-to-5 shot, especially in California, there are five guys out to get you. Jerry's a great rider, and he's got to realize that in big races, people are going to be trying to beat him."

Despite the criticism, Bailey says he still isn't sure that his strategy of staying close to Siphon was wrong. He just didn't expect Dramatic Gold to contribute to the quicker pace.

"It didn't seem to me that a jockey would burn himself out just to beat Cigar," he said, "and I think that is exactly what happened."

Bailey pointed out that Dramatic Gold finished 18 lengths behind the upset winner, Dare And Go, and nearly 15 lengths behind Cigar.

Although Bailey is the sport's hottest rider, he knows another jockey could be anointed with the same title tomorrow. "It's a cyclical thing," he said.

"The old adage that it's harder to stay on top than reach the top is certainly true," he said.

Bailey is confident Cigar will bounce back when he runs next at Belmont Park in the Woodward Stakes or the Jockey Club Gold Cup. The ultimate goal for Cigar is a repeat in the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup Classic, held this year in Toronto, which could be the horse's final race.

"When [Cigar] was at the test barn [after the Pacific Classic], his head was down," Bailey said. "He was looking around for the cameras and there were none. He knew he got beat. At first he was disappointed about it, but then I think he got mad. Now he's got fire in his eyes.

"I replay that race in my mind constantly. It stopped while my races went on the next day, but when the last flag falls and I go back in the [jockeys'] room, I think about it a lot and I will for a while.

"You can't take anything away from Cigar for the decision I made to ride him like that. I think he showed his greatness."

Pub Date: 8/16/96

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