Cigar's only legacy as stud is what might have been

On Horse Racing

March 09, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

The most upsetting aspect of Cigar's apparent failure as a sire is the snuffing out of dreams, the cruel theft of wonderment.

I'm well aware that Maryland racetracks are tough places for dreams. When your entryway is a potholed parking lot, you enter resentful. When the barns where horses and humans reside aren't fit for dogs, you turn cynical.

But you can't tell me that anyone who saw one of Cigar's races as his winning streak mounted doesn't yearn to see his babies run. The fans who cheered, or even cried, when Cigar held on for glory in Dubai wish someday to recall, when a little Cigar prances onto the racetrack, that magical moment on faraway sands.

But it looks now as if that won't happen. Veterinarians have yet to find an embryo in any of the mares to which Cigar has been bred.

Perhaps no one anticipated Cigar's babies as eagerly -- or deserved them more -- than Allen E. Paulson, Cigar's owner during the streak.

Paulson could have retired Cigar after his 5-year-old season, when the Maryland-bred champ won all 10 races. But he chose to let the racehorse race, and little girls ran to the paddocks to shout, "We love you, Cigar."

Paulson could have sold Cigar for $30 million to Japanese breeders. But he vowed that Cigar would stand in the United States, that American breeders would have the opportunity to breed their best mares to him.

Now, Paulson searches for other stallions for the 25 classy mares he had booked with Cigar. If Cigar's fertility problems persist, we will all be robbed of the wonderment of seeing how all these wonderful matings turn out.

The loss runs especially deep at Country Life Farm near Bel Air, where on April 18, 1990, Cigar was born.

"Cigar's like part of the family," said Josh Pons, the farm manager. "We were all looking forward to his stud career.

"In the back of our heads we were hoping for the day when we might have our own little Cigar running around the place. But nothing is certain in this game. That's the thing you keep hearing people say now: 'Well, it happens.' "

And you know what? It's going to happen that in three, four or five years, a horse whose dam was to have gone to Cigar, but instead was sent to a substitute sire, will step onto a track somewhere and become a champion, dazzling and diverting us, for a while anyway, from dreams that might have been.

Fighting back

Two living legends of the Maryland turf are recovering from recent surgeries -- as feisty as ever. A call to Manor Care in Roland Park -- "Is George Mohr there?" -- prompted this strong-voiced response: "On the line."

Mohr, 81, underwent quadruple-bypass heart surgery two weeks ago at Union Memorial Hospital. He's recovering at Manor Care and expects to be home in a week.

A trainer of horses in Maryland for 60 years, Mohr said of the surgery: "It was a tougher road than I thought. It knocks the devil out of you.

"They tell me I'm doing very good. I'm taking therapy. I try hard. I'm sitting here waiting for my lunch right now."

And a call to Longwood Farm in Howard County -- "Is this Oliver Goldsmith?" -- brought this response: "I'm getting along pretty good. Everybody's been so kind. I didn't know I had so many friends."

Goldsmith, 69, a longtime breeder and owner of horses, underwent brain surgery three weeks ago at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He has been home one week. Friday morning he was at the track at 6, watching his horses work out.

On the phone later in the day, he exclaimed -- as only C. Oliver Goldsmith can -- how his friends made sure that fine food and drink found its way into his rooms at Howard County General, St. Agnes and Johns Hopkins.

"I debauched three hospitals," Goldsmith said. "Had a party every night. Tell everybody I'm up and around. I'm tough as mule meat, and I ain't going away from here till I get good and ready."

Secret race

Trainer Mary Eppler has finally found a race for Traitor, but she's not saying when. She's keeping it secret to make sure it fills. But it's obviously coming up soon -- at Gulfstream Park or Hialeah -- because Traitor's second race would be April 12 in one of the major Derby preps that day: Arkansas Derby, Blue Grass Stakes or Wood Memorial.

One of last year's top juveniles getting a late start as a 3-year-old, Traitor would, if he performs as hoped, run May 3 in the Kentucky Derby after only two races this year.

Facing Pulpit again

After discussing other options for Captain Bodgit, the colt's trainer, Gary Capuano, and owner Barry Irwin have decided to race him against Pulpit again in the Florida Derby on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

MATCH series set

Charles B. Lockhart, who served more than 25 years as executive vice president of the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association, has accepted the job of special projects coordinator for the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Associations.

Along with other duties, Lockhart will serve as executive director of the newly created Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships (MATCH), an innovative five-month series of stakes races at mid-Atlantic tracks.

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