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The 30th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap is set for this Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack. The race is always an important one on the racing calendar, while also serving as the final Grade 1 event of the season in the state of New York. A solid card of 10 races, with 3 other stakes races besides the Cigar Mile, are set to run on Saturday. The Cigar Mile will go off as race 9, with a local post time of 3:45 PM ET. The race will be televised on a special edition of Aqueduct Live, presented by Claiborne Farm, airing on MSG+ from 3-4:30 p.m. ET. Saturday’s Aqueduct Live, NYRA’s final ‘Live’ show of 2018, will also present coverage and analysis of the Remsen.
The headliner of the field is the well-traveled Mendelssohn, who is coming off of a fifth place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Aidan O’Brien colt had danced several dances this season, while seemingly still running in top form. For this race, he will be cutting back to mile, which does not seem to worry O’Brien.
“We always thought a mile would not be a problem to him,” said O’Brien. “We have been very happy with the way he has developed from two to three; he has usually been a good breaker and a good strong traveler in his races.”
Another horse to be dealt with in this event is the Chad Brown-trained Patternrecognition. The son of Adios Charlie has won two straight races, including the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park in his last start. He is a horse that has been improving with every race, which has his trainer excited for this contest.
“It took him a while to develop, but he’s turned into a nice horse,” said Brown. “He just has to keep moving forward. It’s a tough race, but he’s a nice horse and on his best day he’s capable of being competitive in here. He does like Aqueduct and it’s part of the reason we pointed to this race.”
Todd Pletcher completes the star-studded trainer trifecta in this race with Copper Town, who has won three races in a row. The Speightstown colt crushed his rivals last time out, following a one-year layoff, at Keeneland Race Course in an optional claiming field in October. The colt is lightly raced, while also showing that he is highly talented.
The full field for the Grade 1 Cigar Mile from the rail out: Mendelssohn, Sunny Ridge, Pat On the Back, Stan the Man, Copper Town, True Timber, Timeline, and Patternrecognition.
#5 Copper Town – There is no doubt this is an all or nothing type of play. Copper Town is the fastest and most talented horse in the race, while also seemingly having several problems health wise. He has had a tough time staying on the track. When he does run it is something to see, with him winning his last three races by a combined 15-lengths. This is his first start against stakes company; however, consider this: the last time he faced Patternrecognition, he defeated him by 6 ¼ lengths. This horse should have the talent to get it done if he shows up with his best effort.
#8 Patternrecognition – This horse is red-hot coming into the race, while improving with each start. Last time out, he won the first stake race of his career, which came in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park. This is the logical next step up in class, which seems to be a perfect spot for him to give it a shot. This outside post position draw should give him a great shot today if he can sit off the pace in a nice stalking position.
#1 Mendelssohn – What will he do this time? There is no doubt he is one of the most overrated horses we’ve seen in quite a while. However, he is also an interesting horse, while always playing a major part in the race. This horse has literally traveled all over the world, which makes you think he may be getting tired, but it is hard to question a great trainer like Aidan O’Brien. With him on his side it is likely that the horse will show up with another solid effort. He is not impossible today with this cut back in distance.
#2 Sunny Ridge – When looking for a horse you can count on to show up each and every time, Sunny Ridge is the one you want. He has hit the board in 4 of 5 races this year, while winning the $100,00 State Dinner Stakes three races back. Today, he should get a beautiful set up, with plenty of pace in front of him. This might be the set up he needs to win a race of this caliber. Even if he doesn’t, we still know that he can hit the board here, so this is a horse to wheel on the back end of bets.
#7 Timeline – Could it be possible that this is just his time to win one of these types of races? After a solid 3-year-old season started going backwards on him in a hurry he was given plenty of time off, before returning in April of this year. He has only one win in five starts this year; however, he has been close to winning on several occasions. This spot makes sense for him, while the pace could be in his favor.
#3 Pat On the Back – This New York bred will step outside of state bred company after winning 2 of his last 3 races. Both of those wins came against New York bred stakes company, which has proven to be tough lately. We’ve seen New York breds step up and run well against open company all year, which could happen once again with this horse.
#6 True Timber – A winner of 2 out of his last 3 races, True Timber comes into this race with a bit of momentum. Unfortunately, even though he was second last time out in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap, he was beaten by nearly 1o lengths. This field is a little tougher today than what he faced in that race, which could make this a difficult spot.
#4 Stan the Man – After winning 3 of 4 starts he is now ready to step up to stakes company for the first time. Starting off in a Grade 1 race will be quite a challenge, especially since this is his second race off of a layoff. There are easier races they could have tried for his first stakes start.
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