Since Cigar can't be daddy, he'll join horse park family

On Horse Racing

November 22, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

To the delight of his legions of fans, Cigar appears headed to the Kentucky Horse Park, a public park near Lexington that welcomes adoring visitors.

For the past year and a half, Cigar has been secluded at a private farm in Kentucky where a reproductive specialist tried to determine whether the Maryland-bred, two-time Horse of the Year could ever sire offspring.

The farm permitted few visitors. In fact, that was the idea: Keep Cigar out of the public eye in a quiet, natural setting so that, perhaps, his natural sexual functions would flourish.

They didn't. Cigar is just as infertile today as he was early last year when he failed to impregnate any mares in his debut at stud, says Phil McCarthy, the reproductive specialist who owns Watercress Farm in Paris, Ky., Cigar's home since May 1997.

In light of that, discussions are nearly complete that would transfer Cigar to the Kentucky Horse Park, perhaps as early as the end of the year.

Peter Trend, bloodstock underwriter for Assicurazioni Generali, an insurance conglomerate based in Italy, said on Thursday that a final decision about Cigar's transfer should be forthcoming by the end of the month. Trend's company assumed ownership of Cigar when it paid a record $25 million settlement on Cigar's infertility policy.

The Kentucky Horse Park is home to 200 horses representing 42 breeds. It bills itself as a theme park dedicated to horses.

Cigar would take up residence in the Hall of Champions, an old stallion barn that is home to, among others, the great John Henry, who is 23, and Bold Forbes, at 25 the oldest living winner of the Kentucky Derby. Another celebrated resident, Forego, died last year at age 27.

The park should be ideal for Cigar, who always seemed to enjoy the attention as he became the leading money-earner of all time.

"I think he'll thrive here, just as John Henry has," said John Nicholson, executive director of the park. "And fans will have the chance to pay homage."

Early Thanksgiving post

Post-time Thanksgiving at Laurel Park is 11: 05 a.m. That's so patrons can get home for dinner -- perhaps with some money in their pockets or at least a pie in their poke. The first 7,000 at Laurel Park -- and first 2,000 at Pimlico -- will receive a pumpkin or mince pie. Those arriving at Laurel Park before the first race can also indulge themselves in free doughnuts, coffee and cider.

On the backstretch of Maryland's training centers, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association will supply a full-course Thanksgiving feast for local and visiting stable workers. Serving times in the backstretch kitchens are 8 a.m. to noon at Pimlico and Bowie, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Laurel Park.

The horsemen's association is also preparing for its Christmas party and annual awards presentations Monday, Nov. 30, at the Laurel Park clubhouse. Tickets are $25. For information, call 410-265-6842.

The Swain story

After his curious ride on Swain in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, England-based jockey Frankie Dettori quickly got out of town. Back home, the usually gregarious Dettori avoided reporters, who wanted to know why he kept whipping Swain left-handed as the horse drifted closer and closer to the outside rail.

Immediately after the race, Dettori had said Swain bore out when he saw lights, presumably those that illuminated the finish line. But Swain began drifting well before he could have seen the lights. And anyway, his surge to the outside coincided with Dettori's relentless left-handed whipping.

Now, Dettori says he moved Swain wide on purpose to avoid a side-by-side stretch battle with Silver Charm. On the British TV -- show "Morning Line," Dettori said: "In the jockeys' room before the race, one of the riders told me that you can't beat Silver Charm in a head-to-head, so I decided to go four horses wide. I did the best for me and for Swain. But it did not work."

It did not because Dettori neglected to change his stick to his right hand or stop whipping all together. Each blow drove Swain farther outside, costing him crucial ground to Silver Charm and helping to open a large hole for the eventual winner, Awesome Again.

Did that cost Swain the richest race ever run? Those who backed him at the generous price of 6-1 want to know. Swain finished third, a neck behind Silver Charm, who finished three-quarters of a length behind Awesome Again.

Bill Finley, the resourceful turf writer for the New York Daily News, posed the question to MIT's George Pratt, a racing expert and professor of electrical engineering.

Analyzing tapes of the race, Pratt calculated that Swain lugged out for 17 strides, each stride propelling him forward 23 feet and sideways two feet. Applying the Pythagorean theorem, Pratt concluded that Swain lost six inches per stride, or 8 1/2 feet.

And 8 1/2 feet just happens to approximate one length, the distance by which Swain lost the Classic -- and his most enthusiastic backers lost a huge payday.

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