The defection of both Quality Road and Munnings has left the $300,000 Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile (gr. I) with a field of just six—and only five betting interests—but the Nov. 28 race at Aqueduct still packs plenty of star power.
Of the entrants, four are grade I winners, and another—Driven by Success—is twice grade I-placed, including a close third in last year’s Cigar Mile, and enters off a dominant stakes win at Belmont.
Included in the field for the one-turn mile are Met Mile (gr. I) winner Bribon, Vosburgh (gr. I) winner Kodiak Kowboy, Forego (gr. I) winner Pyro, and Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I) winner Vineyard Haven, the last two running as a coupled entry for Godolphin.
Pyro, who shares the 120-pound high weight with Kodiak Kowboy, will be making the final start of his career. The 4-year-old son of Pulpit is coming off a last-place finish in the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) on the Pro-Ride at Santa Anita, but it is clear that he is not a horse that enjoys synthetic surfaces. Pyro has finished off the board in all three of his synthetic efforts, the only time in his 16-start career aside from the 2008 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) that he has not been in the money.
This season, Pyro has raced three times, winning the Sept. 5 Forego by a half-length over Kodiak Kowboy at Saratoga. This will be his first start at Aqueduct. An earner of more than $1.6 million, Pyro will be ridden by Richard Migliore for trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
“It’s a question of whether he’ll get the pace, plus he’s got to get past some pretty good horses in Bribon and Kodiak Kowboy,” said Godolphin assistant trainer Rick Mettee. “A one-turn mile is a good race – it takes a good horse to win it.”
Vinery Stables’ and Fox Hill Farm’s Kodiak Kowboy will also likely be retired after the Cigar Mile. The 4-year-old Posse colt has had an ambitious campaign, producing a 3-2-1 from seven starts in 2009, his wins coming in the Carter Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct back in April, the Donald LeVine Memorial Handicap at Philadelphia Park in June, and the Vosburgh last month at Belmont. Kodiak Kowboy was fifth in last year’s Cigar Mile.
Now trained by Steve Asmussen, Kodiak Kowboy will stand at Dr. Tom Simon’s Vinery upon his retirement. Shaun Bridgmohan will have the mount.
Vineyard Haven has run two winning races since returning from Dubai earlier this year. He crossed the wire first in the Aug. 29 King’s Bishop (gr. I) at Saratoga, but was disqualified and placed second after interfering with Capt. Candyman Can in deep stretch. The 3-year-old son of Lido Palace rebounded to score theOct. 24 De Francis Dash over the sloppy going at Laurel Park for his third grade I victory. As a 2-year-old, the gray/roan colt won the Hopeful (gr. I) and Champagne (gr. I) before being sold privately for a reported $12 million and being placed in the barn of bin Suroor.
Also making his first start at Aqueduct, Vineyard Haven will be ridden by Alan Garcia.
“He’s still a lightly raced 3-year-old,” said Mettee. “That’s what makes this race interesting – it brings together a diverse field.”
Marc Keller’s Bribon has really come into his own this season, winning four of seven starts including the May 25 Met Mile, which was the second of three straight victories for the 6-year-old gelding. His last two starts came on turf, one a win in allowance company at Saratoga, the other a fifth-place finish Sept. 20 in the Woodbine Mile (gr. IT). Bribon has worked steadily at Belmont for Bobby Ribaudo since that effort, including a bullet five-furlong move in :59.09 Nov. 18. With his regular rider Garcia on Vineyard Haven, Bribon will have the services of Rajiv Maragh.
“It's been a long year,” said Ribaudo, whose charge is 5-2 on the morning line. “I remember getting ready for this race last year – it was his first big attempt – and it seems like we haven't stopped since. He's doing good, though. I know what he's capable of.”
Rounding out the field is Phipps Stable's Vacation, an optional claiming winner last month at Keeneland.
The Cigar Mile is last of four graded stakes on the Aqueduct card and is slated for a 3:38 p.m. EST post.
$300,000 Cigar Mile (gr. I, Race 9, 3:38), 3YO and up, 1 Mile (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Driven by Success (NY), R A Dominguez, 114, B N Levine
2. Kodiak Kowboy (KY), S Bridgmohan, 120, S M Asmussen
3. Pyro (KY), R Migliore, 120, S bin Suroor
4. Bribon (FR), R Maragh, 119, R Ribaudo
5. Vineyard Haven (FL), A Garcia, 118, S bin Suroor
6. Vacation (KY), J Velazquez, 114, C R McGaughey III