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Aqueduct Preview | Cigar Mile Handicap 2023: Senor Buscador Headlines Talented Field
Senor Buscador (Benoit Photo)

Aqueduct Preview | Cigar Mile Handicap 2023: Senor Buscador Headlines Talented Field

Joe R. Peacock, Jr.’s dual graded stakes-winner Senor Buscador will cut back sharply in distance as he headlines a talented 12-horse field in Saturday’s Grade 2, $500,000 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets, a one-turn test for 3-year-olds and up, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The 35th running of the Cigar Mile, slated to close out the card in Race 10, headlines a lucrative program that includes the Grade 3, $200,000 Go for Wand, a one-turn mile for fillies and mares in Race 8. Also featured are a pair of Grade 2, $250,000 nine-furlong qualifiers offering 10-5-3-2-1 points to the top-five finishers, respectively, for the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, in the Remsen for juveniles in Race 9 and the Demoiselle for juvenile fillies in Race 7. First post is 11:50 a.m. Eastern.

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Trained by Todd Fincher, Senor Buscador enters from a seventh-place effort in the 10-furlong Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 4 at Santa Anita Park. With Geovanni Franco up from post 8, Senor Buscador rallied from last-of-12 and well off the pace to finish 5 1/4-lengths back of the victorious White Abarrio.

“He ran really good in the Breeders’ Cup,” Fincher said. “He just got way, way back – almost 19 lengths back. I think he started his run too early. He made up a ton of ground down the backside and he actually flattened a little down the lane, which I’ve never seen him do.”

A six-time winner from 15 starts for purse earnings of $823,427, the 5-year-old Mineshaft bay has won at distances ranging from 5 1/2-furongs to 1 1/16-miles. However, he has made all seven starts this year in two-turn tests, including 1 1/16-mile wins in the Curribot Handicap in March at Sunland Park and the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap in July at Del Mar.

Senor Buscador rallied from last-of-9 and 11 lengths off the pace to best multiple graded stakes-winner Slow Down Andy by 1 1/4-lengths in the San Diego Handicap and registered a career-best 101 Beyer. He picked up a Grade 1-placing in September at Santa Anita when closing to finish third in the nine-furlong Awesome Again.

And yet, when Senor Buscador won the Grade 3 Ack Ack traveling a one-turn mile last October at Churchill Downs, he tracked from second position just two lengths off the pace after three-quarters in 1:10.08.

“The problem with this horse is he’s smarter than people think,” Fincher said. “When you line him up in a one-turn race, he will lay closer even though it’s a shorter race. I think he knows the difference. When you line them up at the quarter-pole, he knows he has to go a mile and a quarter and he just drops himself way back.

“It doesn’t make sense,” continued Fincher, noting a prominent allowance sprint win last July at Lone Star Park. “I ran him 6 1/2-furlongs on a comeback and he laid right off the lead. I just think he knows the difference.”

Fincher engaged well regarded front-end rider Luis Saez to pilot Senor Buscador in the 10-furlong Grade 1 Gold Cup in May at Santa Anita with an eye to a more aggressive steer, but the bay didn’t agree and finished an uncharacteristic fifth.

“He got pinched at the break and he tried to get him to go up and he just wouldn’t do it. He fought the rider about it. You pretty much have to let him do his own thing,” Fincher said.

Despite the quirks with the talented Senor Buscador, bred in Kentucky by Peacock, Jr. and the late Joe Peacock, Sr., Fincher has enjoyed training all of the half-siblings produced thus far out of the multiple stakes-winning Desert Gold mare Rose’s Desert. They include graded stakes-winner Runaway Ghost, multiple stakes-winner Sheriff Brown, and stakes-winner Our Iris Rose. A fifth half-sibling, the 2-year-old filly Aye Candy, made a winning debut Tuesday at Zia Park for Fincher.

“The mom was the first horse I ever trained for the Peacocks. It’s been a great relationship and I’m very fortunate to have them choose me. It’s been a hell of a run,” Fincher said. “All the babies are stakes winners, too. The mother is a straight New Mexico-bred. She was super nice and a very talented mare.

“Two of them were aggressive and two were laid back,” continued Fincher, regarding Rose’s Desert’s progeny. “Sheriff Brown would come from further back than Senor Buscador. Runaway Ghost broke his maiden going five furlongs at Santa Anita right up there on the lead. Our Iris Rose won a stake at Lone Star wire to wire going six furlongs.”

Fincher shipped Senor Buscador to New York last Tuesday and said the talented bay has settled in well at Belmont Park where he breezed a bullet five-eighths in 1:00.90 Saturday over the dirt training track with Junior Alvarado up.

“He’s not really the best work horse by himself but it’s been a while since he worked, so I think he was a little bit keen and worked really good,” Fincher said.

Fincher said he’s hopeful that Senor Buscador, assigned a field-high 123 pounds from post 3, will prove to be a good match in the afternoon with Alvarado, who guided Cody’s Wish to back-to-back victories in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in 2022-23.

“Junior was very happy with the work and the horse came back great. He kind of has the same running style as Cody’s Wish, so I figure that’s a good match,” Fincher said.

Dream Team One Racing Stable’s Kentucky homebred Hoist the Gold [post 11, John Velazquez, 121 pounds] also arrives from an off-the-board effort at the Breeders’ Cup where he finished sixth in the Grade 1 Sprint.

Trained by Dallas Stewart, the 4-year-old Mineshaft colt left post 3-of-8 under Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the six-furlong sprint as Speed Boat Beach rocketed through splits of 21.99 seconds and 44.35, setting it up for the late kick of Elite Power to win by 1 1/2-lengths in a final time of 1:08.34.

“Johnny said he reacted to the dirt hitting him in the face,” Stewart said. “They ran real fast in ‘8 and change’ and you can’t slow down in the middle of a race when they run that fast. It’s just the way it worked out.”

Hoist the Gold demonstrated a truer representation of his talent one start prior when posting a gutsy score in the six-furlong Grade 2 Phoenix on October 6 at Keeneland.

Velazquez hustled the dark bay from post 1-of-11 to track from third as Doctor Oscar and Sibelius dueled through a half-mile in 44.83. Hoist the Gold angled three-wide turning for home and staved off the late run of multiple graded stakes-placed Nakatomi, who was subsequently third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, to garner a three-quarter length win. He stopped the clock in 1:09.13 and registered a career-best 101 Beyer.

“We talked about getting in position and Johnny tried hard to get him in front and he couldn’t,” Stewart said. “Those two got over on top of him and he was just riding their heels. It was unbelievable that he got him out quickly and in the clear. He’s got that three-eighths of a mile run if he can be in the clear, and that’s what he did – he got him out and he ran awesome.”

Hoist the Gold has breezed back twice at Churchill since the Breeders’ Cup, including a bullet half-mile Friday solo in 47.20 which Stewart said gives him confidence stretching back out to a one-turn mile.

“Johnny suggested this race. He thinks going a mile will be a little better suited for him,” Stewart said. “He’s been breezing sharp and feeling sharp. He’s had two good works here.”

Hoist the Gold has banked $844,547 through a record of 25-4-6-3, including Grade 1 placings at seven-furlongs when third in the Malibu last December at Santa Anita and a runner-up effort to Cody’s Wish in the Churchill Downs in May.

Qatar Racing’s Everso Mischievous [post 2, Cristian Torres, 119 pounds] boasts a perfect in-the-money record of 6-4-2-0 for purse earnings of $524,640, including an impressive score last out over returning rivals Dr Ardito and Accretive in the one-mile Grade 2 Forty Niner on October 28 here.

With returning rider Cristian Torres up for trainer Brad Cox, the 3-year-old Into Mischief colt tracked in second position as Swiftsure set splits of 23.29 seconds, 45.89 and 1:09.96 over the fast main track. Torres asked Everso Mischievous for his best through the turn and emerged with the lead at the stretch call with the slow-starting Accretive joining the fray and the late-running Dr Ardito looming large.

A determined Everso Mischievous dug in gamely in the late stages to secure a half-length win over the Chad Brown-trained Dr Ardito, who bested his stablemate Accretive by a nose. Everso Mischievous covered the distance in 1:35.32 and registered a career-best 98 Beyer Speed Figure in his graded stakes debut.

The $85,000 purchase at last year’s Keeneland November Horses of Racing Age Sale graduated at second asking traveling seven furlongs in May at Churchill Downs over a sloppy and sealed main track, besting eventual turf stakes-winner Northern Invader by 2 1/4-lengths.

Everso Mischievous, out of the graded stakes-winning Medaglia d’Oro mare Ever So Clever, made his next two starts against older allowance company, coming up a head short traveling one mile in June at Ellis Park, but added blinkers to post a narrow neck score sprinting seven furlongs in August at Saratoga Race Course.

He made his stakes debut a winning one with a prominent 3 1/4-length score in the seven-furlong Harrods Creek in September at Churchill Downs ahead of his Forty Niner coup.

Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown will have three chances to secure his third Cigar Mile win when sending out multiple graded stakes-placed Accretive [post 10, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 121 pounds], graded stakes-placed New York-bred Dr Ardito [post 5, Manny Franco, 119 pounds] and maiden winner Cascais [post 4, Jose Ortiz, 114 pounds].

Klaravich Stables’ Accretive, a 4-year-old Practical Joke gelding, boasts a record of 7-3-2-1 for purse earnings of $319,750. He was defeated a head by Gunite in the Grade 2 Amsterdam at second asking last July at the Spa on the heels of an impressive maiden score one month earlier at Belmont Park.

Accretive made his first two starts this year against winners at Saratoga and won both, taking a six-furlong sprint in July and a one-mile tilt out of the Wilson Chute in September. He set the pace en route to a runner-up effort behind multiple Grade 1-winner Cody’s Wish when defeated 1 1/2-lengths in the seven-furlong Grade 2 Vosburgh on October 1 here.

Accretive broke a step slow under Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the Forty Niner and was rushed up to fourth position. He traveled five-wide through the turn and chased gamely to the wire but could not reel in Everso Mischievous.

“The break probably cost him a little bit, but then again he got beat by a really promising horse. Hopefully, he gets a cleaner break this time,” said Brown, whose past Cigar Mile winners include Connect [2016] and Patternrecognition [2018].

Accretive, a $180,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, is out of the stakes-placed Street Sense mare Mallory Street.

Michael J. Caruso and Michael Dubb’s Dr Ardito, a 5-year-old Liam’s Map grey bred by Fred W. Hertrich, III and John D. Fielding, has won 7-of-12 starts that includes state-bred stakes wins in the Haynesfield in February at the Big A and the Evan Shipman Handicap in August at the Spa.

The late-running gelding closed from 11 lengths off the pace in the Forty Niner to miss by a half-length to Everso Mischievous.

“When he decides to get going in the stretch, it’s kind of on him. He’s a very consistent horse, though. As long as the track is dry he seems to run really well,” Brown said.

Dr Ardito is out of the Indian Charlie mare Delightfully So, who is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire Delightful Kiss and the graded stakes-winner Delightful Mary, who was named Canada’s Champion 2-Year-Old Filly in 2010.

Three Chimney’s Farm’s lightly-raced Kentucky homebred Cascais [post 4, Jose Ortiz, 114 pounds] sports a perfect in-the-money record of 3-1-1-1, including a second-out graduation traveling one-mile in November at the Big A in which eventual Grade 1-winner Tapit Trice finished third.

The 3-year-old Into Mischief bay returned to action off a nearly one-year layoff last out in a one-mile allowance tilt against elders on October 21 here contested over a sloppy and sealed main track. With Jose Ortiz up, Cascais dictated swift terms, but came up three-quarter lengths shy of victory to the late running Signator, who exited that effort to post an impressive allowance win here.

“We’ve always thought a lot of this horse and we’re going to give him a chance to step up,” Brown said.

Cascais, a full-brother to stakes winner Mundaye Call, is out of the Warrior’s Reward mare Reve d’Amour, who is a half-sister to graded stakes-winner Can the Man and multiple stakes-winner Martha’s Moon.

Coleswood Farm’s West Virginia-homebred Coastal Mission [post 1, Arnaldo Bocachica, 119 pounds] enters on a six-race win streak, all at Charles Town, for trainer Jeff Runco.

“We pick our spots and it’s time to give him a chance in a spot like this. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him the last two and half years,” Runco said.

The 4-year-old Great Notion gelding has won 11-of-16 starts, including a trio of stakes wins at his Charles Town base led by an open-company score two starts back in the two-turn seven-furlong Russell Road on August 25 and the state-bred West Virgina Breeders’ Classic going nine furlongs last out on October 14.

His win streak dates to an open-company allowance win in April and includes a state-bred score in the Confucius Say. The versatile grey, who has won at distances ranging from 4 1/2-furlongs to nine furlongs, shipped successfully to Laurel Park last February to win an optional-claiming sprint.

Runco said his versatile charge can make his own trip.

“He doesn’t need the lead. It doesn’t matter to him – he can lay off the pace. It just depends how the race sets up,” Runco said.

Coastal Mission, a full-brother to multiple graded stakes-placed Lewisfield, is out of the Crowd Pleaser mare Smart Crowd, who is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winner Duckhorn. He has banked $566,653 through a record of 16-11-3-1.

Breeders’ Cup alumni Three Technique [post 7, Javier Castellano, 120 pounds] will look to get back to winning ways following an eighth-place finish in the Sprint for trainer Jason Cook.

The 6-year-old Mr Speaker dark bay made the grade in July with a rallying 3 3/4-length score in the seven-furlong Grade 2 John A. Nerud at Belmont.

The late-running veteran has banked a field-best $867,637 through a ledger of 33-6-6-8 that also features a win in last year’s restricted Knicks Go at Churchill.

He has finished third in each of the last two runnings of the Grade 3 Ack Ack.

Rounding out a talented field are:

  • Graded stakes-winner High Oak [post 6, Luis Saez, 118 pounds] for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott
  • Multiple graded stakes-placed Pipeline [post 12, Jose Lezcano, 117 pounds] for conditioner Cherie DeVaux
  • Stakes-winner Offaly Cool [post 8, Abner Adorno, 117 pounds] for trainer Jacinto Solis
  • Allowance winner Castle Chaos [post 9, Dylan Davis, 116 pounds] for trainer Robert Falcone, Jr.