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Sharp Azteca before the Cigar Mile.
The last Grade 1 of the New York racing season is the $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap Presented by NYRA Bets (G1), moved this year to the first Saturday of December from its traditional spot on Thanksgiving weekend. This 1 mile trip around one turn of the Aqueduct main track for older horses often plays a role in deciding Eclipse Award champions in certain categories. Conditions were typical for late November, with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid 40's, with the main track rated fast and firm going on both turf courses. Monmouth Cup (G3) and Kelso Handicap (G2) winner Sharp Azteca was sent off as the 7-4 favorite in the field of 10 off his close second in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1). In to challenge him included 11-4 second choice Practical Joke, 4th in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) after winnng the Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1), and 4-1 third choice Seymourdini, 4th in the Bold Ruler Handicap (G3).
Down the stretch in the Cigar Mile with Sharp Azteca in the lead
# Horse Jockey Win Place Show 6 Sharp Azteca Castellano 5.50 3.30 2.70 1 Mind Your Biscuits Ortiz Jr. 6.40 3.80 8 Practical Joke Rosario 2.70 Winning Time: 1:35.17 $1 Exacta 6-1 16.30 $1 Trifecta 6-1-8 47.00 $1 Superfecta 6-1-8-5 297.50Results Chart
Left: Sharp Azteca in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Jorge Navarro said, "Everything with him is details. He came out tired. We paid attention to every little thing. We wanted to do the right thing. And I know we were sitting on that Grade 1, and you know what, I wasn't expecting this big of a performance. He ran his eyes out. What else can I ask? I thought he could [rate] until yesterday. I watched two videos of him and he kept throwing his head up every time we tried to rate him. I mentioned it to Javier and I said, 'we are not going to get in your way. You do what you want to do.' The one thing I said is that once you make your move, just go. Do not try to look pretty."
Right: Sharp Azteca heads back to the barn after the race. Winning jockey Javier Castellano said, "There was a lot of early speed with the horses in this race. I was really impressed by the way he did it. I just asked him to win the race back, I didn't push him all the way. We've known this is a special horse for a long time. You don't see too many horses do this; when they're going too fast in the Breeders' Cup, then they have a short rest and the way they perform today. A mile race against a good field of horses, I think he's very impressive."
Left: Sharp Azteca walks over before the race. Navarro added, "It was a decision of the owner to change jockeys. We did what we thought was right for the horse. We believe he is one of the top horses in the nation. So, he needs one of the top riders. I bought him. I picked him. It means a lot to win a Grade 1. When the horse was a three-year-old, I mentioned that he was one of the top three-year-olds and another trainer came up to me and said 'are you kidding, do you know what you are talking about?' Here it is. He is the only (member of the 2016 three-year-old class) still around. After this performance, why not (run in the Pegasus World Cup)? We are going to see how he comes out of this first."
Right: Sharp Azteca heads out for the post parade.
Left: Second place finisher Mind Your Biscuits returns after the race. Trainer Chad Summers said, "It shows he can go a mile. I have all the respect in the world for Sharp Azteca. Just following him all year long, I knew that was the horse to beat. I thought it was a two-horse race. It was; he got the jump on us and beat us today. We'll regroup from here for next year. He was a clear second here. Obviously, you want to win and end the year on a high note, but if anyone was going to beat me today, I'm glad it was Jorge
Right: Third place finisher Practical Joke in the paddock before the race. Trainer Chad Brown said, "I thought he ran a real solid race. It was more of the same from him; a model of consistency. It was hard to make up ground today on this track. That said, the winner was very impressive, and I don't think it would have mattered how the track was playing it looked like nobody was going to beat him today. Hats off to the winning connections. For Practical Joke that's it. He's been a really solid horse for us. I'm excited about his future as a stallion and look forward to training his offspring."
Indulgent leads down the stretch in the Go For Wand
Jockey Luis Saez sent 12-1 Indulgent to the lead exiting the chute and she set fractions of 23.52, 46.82, and 1:11.43 while pressed by 7-1 Lucy N Ethel and stalked by Highway Star. Entering the lane, Indulgent continued to lead through 7f in 1:24.00. Highway Star put in a late challenge but Indulgent easily held her off by a length in 1:37.75. It was just 1/2 a length more to Verve's Tale third, while favorite Jamyson 'n Ginger finished last beaten 7 1/2 lengths.
# Horse Jockey Win Place Show 7 Indulgent Saez 27.40 10.60 5.70 2 Highway Star Arroyo 3.90 3.10 5 Verve's Tale Velazquez 2.90 Winning Time: 1:37.75 $1 Exacta 7-2 53.00 $1 Trifecta 7-2-5 235.50 $1 Superfecta 7-2-5-3 1,023.50Results Chart
Left: Indulgent in the winner's circle. Jimmy Bell, president of owner Godolphin USA said, "She has a more famous older (half) brother (Frosted) and to have that filly and the family continue on with her being a graded stakes winner makes a big difference. She was very precocious early on while sprinting and I know Kiaran [McLaughlin] was always anxious to stretch her out a little bit. We really didn't want the lead but she obviously broke running and it looked like everything came very natural to her. Most importantly, she was very comfortable. She had that good rhythm down the backside and you could see he was very confident throughout and when he called on her, she responded very gamely. To put a graded victory under her name is very, very important. It's great for Sheikh Mohammed's breeding to carry on this great family that's been so good to us with Frosted, obviously, Midshipman and some others. This should make her a very welcome addition to the breeding operation. I don't know if this is her last race, but this is her most important race."
Right: Indulgent heads back to the barn. Winning jockey Luis Saez said, "Last time she ran so hard, [but] the only issue was the rail. Last time, the rail was heavy and she broke from the inside and we couldn't get out and that hurt a little bit. Today, she got an outside post and she broke pretty well. We came to the stretch, I asked her and she took off."
Left: Second place finisher Highway Star in the post parade. Trainer Rodrigo Ubillo said, "I wasn't going to target this race, but she did great. Doing all this inside of a month was a lot for her. She also had a big weight difference [123 pounds], but there's no excuses. We probably did a little too much in a short period of time. Since she ran the way she did in the Breeders' Cup [Filly & Mare Sprint], she obviously didn't like it. She either didn't like it there or was too close to the pace and didn't fire. I wanted to see if she would do good here, and she ran great."
Right: Third place finisher Verve's Tale returns after the race. The Barclay Tagg trainee improved her record to 3 wins, 7 seconds, and 3 thirds in 17 starts, earning $500,500 for owner-breeder Charles Fipke.
Last place finisher and beaten favorite Jamyson 'n Ginger in the post parade. Trainer Chad Brown said, "She never looked involved today, very flat throughout the race, Javier (Castellano) commented, he said it was disappointing, and (4th place finisher) Going For Broke got a really good trip, just wasn't quite good enough there at the end. Not the results we were looking for."
The horses break from the gate for the Remsen Stakes
Jockey Luis Saez sent 19-1 Bandito to the lead first time by and he set fractions of 23.98 and 48.97 while pressed by 166-1 longest shot Millionaire Runner and stalked by Avery Island and 11-1 Vouch. On the far turn, Millionaire Runner gained a short lead through 3/4 in 1:14.33 before dropping out of contention. Catholic Boy, 6th early under Manuel Franco, came out 3 wide for room and took command at the 3/16, opening up by 3 1/2 lengths through 1 mile in 1:39.65. Kept to task by Franco, Catholic Boy drew off to win by 4 3/4 lengths over Avery Island in 1:52.50. It was another 1 3/4 lengths back to Vouch third.
# Horse Jockey Win Place Show 5 Catholic Boy Franco 10.20 5.00 3.70 3 Avery Island Bravo 3.70 3.10 8 Vouch Rosario 6.00 Winning Time: 1:52.50 $1 Exacta 5-3 20.50 $1 Trifecta 5-3-8 147.24 $1 Superfecta 5-3-8-7 498.00Results Chart
Left: Catholic Boy in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Jonathan Thomas said, "We were really happy with how he exited the Breeders' Cup and, to us, he galloped out very well in that race and indicated that he wanted more ground. We came over here quietly confident that he would show us a little something, but we never expected that. Early on, he was a turf horse only because there weren't many route races on the dirt. It was kind of a default sort of thing and he actually breezed fine on the turf so now we have a lot of thinking to do. The key to him as that if he gets a route of ground. Obviously, this time of year our preference would be to have a dirt horse this time of year. I think we definitely have to consider his next start being a dirt race for sure and kind of see where he takes us. Manny just kind of rode him into the first turn and things worked from there. We knew he would stay. It was just a matter of he kept on or horses came back reeling into him, but I'll watch more replays of the race. This definitely defied expectations and we're very proud of his effort."
Right: Catholic Boy heads back to the barn after the race. Winning jockey Manuel Franco said, "I just followed the instructions. The trainer told me to break out of there running and to try and get some position early on into the first turn. The horse put me in a good position and when I called on him to run he just went."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Avery Island heads out to the track before the race. Jockey Joe Bravo said, "He broke in front and I kind of felt like we had a target on our back and they kind of pushed us coming into the first turn, so I took it upon myself to make the sit back off the horses and he breathed. He was behind horses, he took the dirt, he relaxed. He was comfortable. Just waiting for the riders orders. Any time I asked for a little bit, he jumped on the bit, and he was there for me. At the top of the lane, we kicked and he really ran hard. I am more proud for him to come off the pace and come running down the lane then winning wire-to-wire. It really sucks to get beat, but, I think down the road this race is going to teach him a lot more than just going out there and being a speed horse."
Right: Third place finisher Vouch in the paddock. The Arnaud Delacour trainee improved his record to 1 win and 1 third in 2 starts, earning $47,800 for owners Lael Stables and Three Chimneys Farm.
Wonder Gadot leads down the stretch in the Demoiselle
Jockey Kendrick Carmouche sent Daisy to the lead first time by through fractions of 24.47, 50.28, and 1:16.24 while pressed by Wonder Gadot and stalked by 11-2 Held Accountable. On the far turn Daisy tired as Wonder Gadot easily inherited the front, opening up a 3 1/2 length lead through 1 mile in 1:41.50. Kept to task by John Velazquez, Wonder Gadot cruised to a 3 3/4 length victory over late-running Maurer Power in 1:53.91. It was a long 3 lengths back to 11-1 Layla Noor third.
# Horse Jockey Win Place Show 3 Wonder Gadot Velazquez 5.20 3.20 2.60 6 Maurer Power Ortiz Jr. 4.90 4.20 7 Layla Noor Franco 4.90 Winning Time: 1:53.91 $1 Exacta 3-6 43.40 $1 Trifecta 3-6-7 70.74 $1 Superfecta 3-6-7-1 242.50Results Chart
Left: Wonder Gadot in the winner's circle. Jamie Begg, assistant to winning trainer Mark Casse said, "Yeah, the plan going into it was to kind of sit off of it but be a little closer than she was in the last race. And the fractions worked beautifully in our favor. Johnny [Velazquez] said he was just waiting there to make his move. I was pretty happy with the way it worked out because a few of the races here have been going pretty quick up front and the speed is holding. Mark was smart. He sent her straight back to the farm from California and they were pondering what to do with her. So, they sent her back to the farm, and I think that lay back kind of helped her a little bit. It was easier to climatizer her, bring her to the East coast before, instead of just shipping her straight into Aqueduct."
Right: Wonder Gadot heads back to the barn after the race. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "I was talking to the trainers about staying closer to the speed. We were hoping she would be comfortable and I was happy where she put me. When I came down, I switched leads, and she was going very comfortable and got away from the horses pretty easily. She has a beautiful stride. I was very happy with the way she did it."
Left: Second place finisher Maurer Power heads out to the track before the race. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "We broke from the outside. We went into the first turn, I was a little wide, so I put myself behind the two live horses. Then, after that, the place slowed down too much. They went too slow, and the winner got the jump on me. We just got beat but the winner is a nice filly." Trainer John Servis added, "I was very happy with her. Irad loved her. He wants to ride her back. I think she's progressing nicely. I think both of them are going to be a really nice fillies for us. She had some time off after her first race, which really moved her forward. She blossomed off of that. So, she'll be on her way to Florida and we'll train her in the better weather and see how she keeps progressing."
Right: Third place finisher Layla Noor in the paddock before the race. The Arnaud Delacour trainee improved her record to 2 wins, 0 seconds, and 1 third in 5 starts, earning $108,730 for owner-breeder Lael Stables.
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