Sharp Azteca wins the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct by 5 1/4 lengths

Sharp Azteca wins the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct by 5 1/4 lengths

Coglianese Photos/Chelsea Durand

Sharp Azteca Exits Cigar Mile Well, Pegasus on Radar

Connections of Freud colt are eyeing a start in the Pegasus World Cup.

Ivan Rodriguez's Sharp Azteca is no worse for wear the morning following his first career grade 1 victory in the Dec. 2 $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets (G1) at Aqueduct Racetrack, trainer Jorge Navarro said.

Navarro noted that the 4-year-old colt by Freud  suffered a superficial laceration on his back leg, but has otherwise emerged from his 5 1/4-length victory in good order.

"It's nothing serious. I guess coming out of the gate, a horse cut him in the back, but everything is good," he said. "I had to jump on a plane last night, so I only got to see him for a little while after the race, but I spoke to my guy out there and I spoke to my vet. He looks very bright, alert. I'm pretty pleased with how he's come out of the race so far. He was begging for his mints and carrots."

NOVAK-CROSBY: Sharp Azteca Rolls to Cigar Mile Score

In the Cigar Mile, Sharp Azteca showed a new dimension under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, sitting off a pair of frontrunners early only to power home a decisive winner while carrying the field's 125-pound highweight to a final time of 1:35.17.

"I'm still wowed by that performance," Navarro said. "What more can you ask? I love fast horses, but those types of horses always find someone who wants to go with them. I'm pleased we can have a second plan with him.

"Castellano did an amazing job. That's why he's Javier Castellano," he continued. "There wasn't much to say in the paddock. I just told him, 'You're on top of him, you do what you want. The only thing I'm going to ask is that once you put him there to make a move, don't wait, just go. You can't wait on him; when you open up that window, go.'"

Navarro said the connections are currently "95%" sure that Sharp Azteca, who flies back to Gulfstream Park West Dec. 5, will kick off his 2018 season in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park.

"He's going to fly home and we're going to regroup," he said. "I'm going to give him probably a week off to see how he comes out of this and we'll go from there. He's going to let us know. With him, he lets us know where he's at."

Cigar Mile runner-up Mind Your Biscuits will ship to Florida within the next few days, according to trainer Chad Summers. 

"We're doing well. I was real proud of him," Summers said. "He showed everybody what he can do. Obviously, we ran into a monster in Sharp Azteca.

"He ran against the bias, ran a clear second against a few nice horses that are going to be stallions for a lot of money, so with our little Posse connection, we showed up, and he beat them up, so I'm proud of him."

Summers said multiple grade/group 1 winner Mind Your Biscuits will settle in at Palm Meadows as his connections weigh the possibilities for his next start.

"I'm hoping he can capture the New York-bred title," he added of the Posse colt who was last year's New York-bred Horse of the Year. "There's a New York race here on Jan. 18, it's seven eighths (of a mile), but we have a lot of different things considered right now. We have the Pegasus, Dubai, the Carter, the Met Mile. Going longer has certainly been on the radar for a long time, but the Carter is seven-eighths, and perfect for him. It's great to have options. If I was a percentage guy, I'd say 15% looking at the Pegasus, plus there's the General George, the Golden Shaheen, and the Gulfstream Sprint."

Remsen Stakes (G2) winner Catholic Boy will head to trainer Jonathan Thomas' base at Bridlewood Farm near Ocala, Fla. 

EHALT: Catholic Boy Relishes Switch to Dirt in Remsen

"We'll let the dust settle," Thomas said. "It's a good time of year to get a few weeks to freshen up, so we'll allow him to do that. As spring comes around, we won't have the same opportunity."

The win was the first start on dirt for Robert LaPenta's 2-year-old More Than Ready  colt. 

"He came out of his race in good order and looked great this morning, so all-in-all, he exited that in good shape," Thomas said. "It confirmed our belief that he could get the (distance). We had seen some indicators that he could handle the dirt in the mornings, and he obviously confirmed that he could do it as well in the afternoons. He's always been a very reliable horse and has shown up in every scenario we put him in."

Gary Barber's Demoiselle Stakes (G1)-winning filly Wonder Gadot will get some time away from the races according to trainer Mark Casse, while he and his team map out a plan to get to the 2018 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1).

SHEA: Wonder Gadot Rebounds in Demoiselle

"She was great this morning," Casse said. "We're going to wait a day or two then take her back to the training center, and from there we're going to map out some sort of plan to get her to the Oaks. We know she loves Churchill Downs. She's trained over it real well, so that's a plus.

"So we'll look at the Oaks as our goal then work backwards from there. Could be back in New York, could be California, maybe even Oaklawn to get her there. We have four good fillies for Mr. Barber, so we'll try to keep them separated, which is not an easy thing to do, but it's a great problem to have."

Saturday's Cigar Mile Day card generated all-sources handle of $13,545,188, marking an 11.8% increase over 2016's Cigar Mile Day, which was contested one week earlier on the calendar.