In a star-studded field that included four Breeders’ Cup starters, it was the longest shot on the board, Jersey Town, who pulled a 34-1 shocker in the Hill ‘N’ Dale Cigar Mile (gr. I) (VIDEO) Nov. 27 at Aqueduct, as he held off a game Haynesfield by a nose for his first stakes win.
With Cornelio Velasquez aboard for trainer Barclay Tagg, Jersey Town stalked the pace, took over from Haynesfield in mid-stretch, and held on desperately in the final yards as Haynesfield fought back gamely along the rail.
The 4-year-old homebred of Charles Fipke entered the contest off three consecutive graded stakes placed efforts but seemed to be over his head in a race that featured grade I winning stablemates Vineyard Haven and Girolamo, as well as Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) starters Haynesfield and Musket Man. Bribon, runner-up in the 2009 Cigar Mile and winner of the grade I Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) last year, was sent off as the favorite.
But Jersey Town showed he was up to the test in his first race under Velasquez. The winner and runner-up are both by Speightstown.
Vineyard Haven ensured a quick pace under David Cohen, outkicking Haynesfield during a :22.69 opening quarter mile, then running a :45.27 half mile into the turn. Jersey Town sat a perfect trip in third behind the two leaders, while Friend Or Foe, Girolamo, Bribon, and Soaring Empire raced next in a tightly-bunched field of eight. Half Metal Jacket and Musket Man were at the back of the pack.
Haynesfield and Jersey Town were noses apart with a furlong remaining, but despite drifting out Jersey Town took a narrow lead by mid-stretch. He looked like he was going to go on for the clear win, but Haynesfield fought back determinedly under Javier Castellano while skimming the rail and was closing ground right to the wire. Girolamo made a late run with Alan Garica aboard, missing by just 1 3/4 lengths in third.
The final time on the fast main track was 1:34.43.
“When I asked my horse, he passed the other horses," Velasquez said. "Today, he wanted to win. The other horse, he ran a big one too. My horse is a very good horse.”
Jersey Town had made his previous two starts in New York, finishing third in the Oct. 3 Kelso Handicap (gr. II) and second to Bribon in the Oct. 30 Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. II). His lone win in four starts in 2010 had come in a 6 1/2-furlong optional claimer July 25 at Emerald Downs. The chestnut colt won three times as a juvenile.
Bred in Kentucky, the winner is out of the Belong to Me mare Jersey Girl. He improved to 5-5-1 from 12 starts and upped his earnings to $394,001.
"I liked him, I just didn’t think the race would come up that tough," Tagg said. "Mr. Fipke had him out west, and wanted to go to the Breeders’ Cup. I talked him out of that, and said the Cigar Mile would be a lot easier, and it’s still a grade I. Then the race came up so tough, and I thought we made a mistake.
"He was doing well, so we were happy with that. He’s all business. He just goes out there with his game face on every day. No fooling around, just does everything the way you like a horse to do. I have no idea what’s next; hopefully, we’ll keep him around for a little bit.”
Jersey Town paid $71.50, $25.80, and $9.50. The exacta (5-4) returned $461.50 and the trifecta (5-4-1) was worth $2,298.
Bribon finished fourth, followed by Friend Or Foe, Soaring Empire, Vineyard Haven, Musket Man, and Half Metal Jacket.