No filly or mare in the 23-year existence of the Cigar Mile has won the one-mile fixture at Aqueduct, though few have tried. Fresh off a championship clinching win in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, Groupie Doll will attempt to make a little history before the year is out when she faces six male rivals in Saturday's renewal of the $350,000 handicap.
As has become custom in recent years, the Cigar Mile headlines a post-Thanksgiving Saturday program that includes the Grade 1, $350,000 Gazelle for three-year-old fillies, the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen for two-year-olds, and the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle for two-year-old fillies.Virtually assured of champion female sprinter honors off five consecutive stakes wins, Groupie Doll might also garner some Horse of the Year support with a victory in the Cigar Mile. The daughter of Bowman's Band preceded her Breeders' Cup score with wins in the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America, Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters, Grade 1 Humana Distaff and Grade 1 Madison, and the cumulative margin of victory during her skein has been 25 lengths.
Arguably the most impressive winner during the two-day Breeders' Cup festival after successfully fighting a track bias catering to front runners, Groupie Doll fared well in her only previous start against males. In a January 27 allowance at Gulfstream Park over a one-turn mile, Groupie Doll missed by a less than a length to Grade 1 veteran Boys at Tosconova. She commenced her present win streak in the April 12 Madison when wearing blinkers for the first time, equipment she has since not raced without.
Also looking to make a little history is Jersey Town, who seeks to follow Congaree (2002-03) as only the second two-time winner of the Cigar Mile. The Barclay Tagg trainee was a regally-bred ex-claimer when he upset the 2010 edition at 34-1, but has been limited to just nine starts the past two years. He registered his first victory of any kind since the 2010 renewal in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap on September 29, drawing off in the stretch to beat Shackleford by 3 1/2 lengths, and like that rival went unplaced in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita in his most recent outing.
Jersey Town will retire to Darby Dan Farm in Kentucky following Saturday's race.
Also scheduled to retire after the Cigar Mile, in his case to Ashford Stud, is 2011 Grade 1 Travers winner Stay Thirsty. The Todd Pletcher-trained son of Bernardini has failed to reach the winner's circle in four starts this term, but ran a bang-up second in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup last time. A head behind defending titlist Flat Out, Stay Thirsty was 5 1/2 lengths clear of eventual Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic victor Fort Larned in that 1 1/4-mile test.
Despite an early-season win in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, Hymn Book never developed into one of the leading lights of the older male division. However, the Stuart Janney III homebred has generally run his best races around one turn. Runner-up by 1 3/4 lengths in last year's Cigar Mile behind To Honor and Serve, Hymn Book enters off a cozy 5 3/4-length tally in the October 19 Frank "Pancho" Martin at Belmont Park over 1 1/16 miles.
Trainer Bob Baffert, who conditioned Congaree and El Corredor to victories in the Cigar Mile, sends Coil in from the West Coast. The dual Grade 1 winner transformed himself into a sprinter this year, taking the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship two back, but floundered in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint after breaking slow and fighting the aforementioned bias.The Cigar Mile field is completed by Buffum and Associate, the first- and third-place finishers in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap on October 27.
Undoubtedly hurt by its late position on the calendar, the nine-furlong Gazelle did not attract a field worthy of its lofty history or grade. Nonetheless, the seven-filly field includes the aspiring duo of Dance Card, the once-beaten winner of the September 23 Belle Cherie at Belmont, and Book Review, who's won the Charles Town Oaks and Imperial Gesture in her past two starts. Others of note are Grade 2-placed Jemima's Pearl, who comes off a second in the Remington Park Oaks, and the Puerto Rican star My Wandy's Girl, who wheels back on short rest after taking the 6 1/2-furlong Pentelis in her mainland U.S. debut November 15.
The Mike Repole-owned pair of Overanalyze and Micromanage will likely go favored in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen, a stepping stone to next spring's classics. Overanalyze is the most accomplished of the two, having taken the Grade 2 Futurity two back, but the son of Dixie Union, was a disappointing eight lengths third as the 9-5 favorite in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs most recently.
A five-length debut winner at Saratoga, Micromanage next ran a distant fifth in the Grade 1 Champagne, a race that has already yielded presumptive juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby and Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot winner Goldencents.
Vegas No Show, a photo-finish winner over returning foe Keep the Canoli in the October 6 Dover at Delaware Park, enters the Remsen off a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Nashua where the son of Hard Spun endured a rough trip in the stretch.In addition to the Repole entry, Pletcher will also saddle another Dixie Union colt, Delhomme, who was a wire-to-wire maiden winner at Belmont in his second career start. Owned in a partnership that includes WinStar Farm, Delhomme graduated in swift 1:35 2/5 going a mile at Belmont.
Other noted maiden victors in the lineup are the Barclay Tagg-trained Indy's Illusion, the Chad Brown pupil Normandy Invasion, and the David Donk trainee Stormy Len.
Repole and Pletcher are also well-represented in the nine-furlong Demoiselle, with 9 1/2-length debut winner Unlimited Budget part of an entry with Coconut Shrimp, who is multiple stakes-placed on grass. However, the Juddmonte Farms homebred Emollient might go off favored after a highly impressive maiden win at Belmont which netted her a 101 BRIS Speed rating.
Also in the Demoiselle lineup are Miss Patricia, a debut winner for Rick Dutrow; Giant Cats Eye, who captured her dirt debut by 4 3/4 lengths when adding Lasix in her most recent outing; and Grade 3 Tempted third-placer Ruby Lips.