Return to stage seems to suit Cigar

He joins Bold Forbes, John Henry in Kentucky

May 05, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

For the first time in two years, Cigar is back in the public eye. The two-time Horse of the Year, born nine years ago in Maryland, walked off a van into his new home Sunday at the Kentucky Horse Park, a public facility in Lexington.

Since May 1997, Cigar has resided at the private farm of an equine-reproductive specialist who attempted to reverse Cigar's infertility. After efforts failed, the insurance company that owns Cigar decided to send him to the horse park, which is open year-round to visitors.

"He took to it immediately," said John Nicholson, executive director of the park. "He seems to have missed being around people."

Cigar moved into Forego's old stall. A three-time Horse of the Year, Forego died in 1997 at age 27. Cigar's neighbors are Bold Forbes, 26, the oldest living winner of the Kentucky Derby, and John Henry, 24, the great gelding who raced 83 times in eight years (winning 39 and twice being voted Horse of the Year).

They live in an old stallion barn known as the Hall of Champions. Each has his own paddock. Cigar will soon join the others in their daily public appearances. They're led in halter three times a day into a pavilion where their story is told in words and video.

"This just feels right," Nicholson said. "Anytime Cigar sees anybody with a camera, he goes right to them."

Cigar grew accustomed to cameras during his 16-race winning streak, which tied Citation's modern-day record. When Cigar retired in late 1996, he held the record, which still stands, for money earned: $9,999,815.

"I think he's going to be an ambassador of the sport at the Kentucky Horse Park," said Josh Pons, whose family operates Country Life Farm near Bel Air.

Cigar was born at Country Life on April 18, 1990. The Ponses erected a plaque outside his birthing stall. The magic of that place lives on.

"An electrician came in the other day to wire something," Pons said. "He brought his wife back just so she could see the stall where Cigar was born."

Bill Mott, who trained Cigar, said he believes the horse will enjoy his new home.

"He's always liked people," Mott said. "There should be plenty of activity at the horse park. Maybe he was a little bored where he was."

After Cigar failed to impregnate any mares during his brief stud career in early 1997, he became the property of an Italian insurance company as part of a $25 million settlement of an infertility policy.

The company sent Cigar to Phil McCarthy's Watercress Farm near Lexington.

McCarthy, a veterinarian specializing in equine reproduction, concluded that Cigar's condition was unlikely to change. McCarthy will continue monitoring Cigar at his new home.

Pub Date: 5/05/99

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