With four wins at the track and a strong comeback effort in his most recent start, Haynesfield figures prominently in the $250,000 Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I), which headlines Aqueduct’s Nov. 26 program.
Runner-up by a head in last year’s Cigar Mile, Haynesfield will have to take down six rivals including standout 3-year-old To Honor and Serve, who seeks his first grade I victory. To Honor and Serve’s trainer, Bill Mott, saddled Thoroughbred great Cigar when he won this race in 1994 while it was called the NYRA Mile. It was renamed in 1997.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has won the race three times and has two chances to get his fourth victory, as he will send out the coupled entry of Caixa Eletronica and Calibrachoa, both for owner Mike Repole. Calibrachoa is 5-for-5 at Aqueduct, including a decisive score in the Bold Ruler (gr. III) in his last start.
Post time for the Cigar Mile is slated for 3:20 p.m. EST.
Turtle Bird Stable’s Haynesfield is the lone grade I winner in the field. He won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) last fall at Belmont Park, two starts prior to being narrowly beaten by Jersey Town in the Cigar Mile. The versatile son of Speightstown was unplaced in both of his starts in early 2011, but responded from a layoff of nearly five months with a sharp comeback win in the Empire Classic Stakes for state-breds on Oct. 22.
“It would mean a lot for him to return to that level,” said assistant trainer Toby Sheets “We are very fortunate in that his owner (Harvey Weinstein) has been so patient and is willing to give him the time.”
Haynesfield has produced a 10-2-1 record from 18 lifetime starts for earnings of more than $1.3 million. His biggest win at Aqueduct was the 2009 Discovery Handicap (gr. III) when he was a 3-year-old. Regular rider Ramon Dominguez will keep the mount for trainer Steve Asmussen, who won this race two years ago with Kodiak Kowboy.
Live Oak Plantation’s To Honor and Serve has also done some of his best running at Aqueduct. In 2010 as a juvenile, he won the one-mile Nashua and 1 1/8-mile Remsen (both gr. II) at Aqueduct to establish himself as a division leader. This will be his first trip back to Aqueduct.
A winner of the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) two starts back, To Honor and Serve was seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) in his most recent try. The son of Bernardini fired a bullet five-furlong work in :59 4/5 Nov. 20 at Belmont in his final preparations for the Cigar Mile. Jose Lezcano will ride the 7-5 morning-line favorite for Mott.
"Shortening back from 1 1/4 miles to a mile is not usually an easy task, but it’s possible,” said Mott. “I know it’s a bit of a squeeze to come back after a race like that, but he’s feeling good, it’s a grade I, and probably the last race of the season for him.”
Caixa Eletronica and Calibrachoa were both claimed by Pletcher for Repole and have paid big dividends. Caixa Eletronica, a 6-year-old son of Arromanches, was picked up for $62,500 in March prior to winning an optional claimer at Gulfstream. Since then he has notched three victories and has been graded stakes placed twice. His biggest win came in the Westchester Handicap (gr. III) at Belmont in April and most recently he was third to Calibrachoa in the Bold Ruler. John Velazquez will be in the irons.
“I think the distance is fine for Caixa Eletronica; it’s probably where he is best suited,” said assistant Whit Beckman. “The way he ran in the (Bold Ruler), he was coming at the end.”
Calibrachoa was claimed for $40,000 last November, and has won four times for his new connections—all at Aqueduct. The 4-year-old son of Southern Image won the Toboggan (gr. III) and Tom Fool Handicap (gr. III) in the first part of 2011, was third in the grade I Vanderbilt Handicap in August at Saratoga, and was a 2 3/4-length winner in the seven-furlong Bold Ruler Nov. 6. This will be the first start at more than seven furlongs in the 18th start of his career.
Both Caixa Eletronica and Calibrachoa were entered in the Thanksgiving Day Fall Heighweight (gr. III) but are expected to run in the Cigar Mile.
Also in the field are Sangaree, who was second in the Bold Ruler, Hymn Book, a recent overnight stakes winner at Belmont; and Pretty Boy Freud, who was supplemented to the race.
$250,000 Cigar Mile (gr. I, Race 8, 3:20 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Dirt) PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey, Trainer 1. Pretty Boy Freud, 110, Ortiz Jr., O'Brien
2. Haynesfield, 117, Dominguez, Asmussen
3a. Calibrachoa, 117, Velasquez, Pletcher
4. Hymn Book, 114, Garcia, S McGaughey
5a. Caixa Eletronica, 117 Velazquez, Pletcher
6. To Honor and Serve, 116 Lezcano, Mott
7. Sangaree, 116 Maragh, bin Suroor
(a) denotes coupled entry