Trainer Barclay Tagg issued an upbeat bulletin Friday morning as Jersey Town prepares for the Grade 1, $350,000 Cigar Mile Handicap, one of six graded stakes that form Aqueduct's Holidayfest.
"He has a multitude of little problems that you have to tweak all the time, but he's great right now," Tagg said. "He had a mile and a half gallop this morning with Robin (Smullen), and he was loving it. He likes the (Belmont main track) better than the training track. We had to train him on the training track quite a bit the last couple of weeks, and he didn't like it at all. He'll train on it because he'll do anything you ask him to do, but he didn't like it. He loves the big track. I think (Aqueduct's main track) is pretty close (in similarity to Belmont's main track), and it has little bigger turns than the (training track)."
Jersey Town, a Charles Fipke homebred, won the 2010 Cigar Mile and posted his second graded stakes score when he took Belmont's Grade 2 Kelso Handicap by 3 1/2 lengths on September 29. He tired to fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile on November 3 at Santa Anita after pressing the pace.
"The whole Breeders' Cup was weird," Tagg said. "There were two horses picked over him (sixth-place finisher Emcee and seventh-place finisher Shackleford). He beat both of them, and yet he didn't get anything. I don't think he liked the two turns particularly. They're tight, little turns there, and maybe he didn't like them."
The Cigar Mile for three-year-olds and up heads the November 24 card, which also 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. The Grade 3, $150,000 Fall Highweight Handicap for sprinters will be contested on November 22 and the Grade 2, $200,000 Go for Wand Handicap for fillies and mares is scheduled for November 23.
Aaccording to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, others who are probable for the Cigar Mile are Buffum and Associate, first and third in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap on October 27; Grade 1 winner Hymn Book, who dropped in class to take the Frank "Pancho" Martin overnight stakes on October 19; and Stay Thirsty, the 2011 Grade 1 Travers victor who missed by a head when second in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 29.
In addition, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is expected to send Coil, winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship. Groupie Doll, a clear winner of the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, is possible, as is Shackleford.
In the Remsen, Tagg will be represented by Indy's Illusion, who won a one-mile off-the-turf allowance race in the mud by 1 1/2 lengths on October 4 at Belmont. The Remsen will be his fourth start and first around two turns.
"He seems like a long-distance horse," said Tagg of Indy's Illusion, another Fipke homebred. "He's just a knife blade of a horse; he's not very wide or anything. He's a lovely mover; it looks like he just glides over the ground. I call him a 'hollow pipe.' We have some big hopes for him, but we'll just have to see."