Friday, December 1, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: Cigar Mile (G1)

Cigar Mile: A Chance for Redemption for Some

By: Michael Amo, ThoroFan Chairman

The Cigar Mile Handicap (GI) will be run as the last and 10th race on Aqueduct’s Saturday’s card. The race has some intriguing points to consider. The handicap condition provides challenging weight spreads. High weight, Sharp Azteca (125), and low weights, Beasley, Vulcan’s Forge and Summer Revolution (114), show the 11-pound spread. As expected the high weights, Practical Joke (120), Mind Your Biscuits (122) and Sharp Azteca (125) are the morning line favorites. A win for any of these three will mean redemption from last and could put them in contention for Eclipse Award consideration.

The Cigar Mile, the cornerstone of the Aqueduct fall meet and the last Grade 1 race of the year in New York, will be accompanied by a trio of graded stakes: $250,000 Remsen (GII) for 2-year-olds, $250,000 Demoiselle (GII) for 2-year-old fillies, and $200,000 Go For Wand (GIII) for fillies and mares at a mile.

Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile contenders Sharp Azteca and Practical Joke are back on the East coast for a return engagement in a field of 10 for the 29th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack. They will be joined by Breeders’ Cup Sprint contender, Mind Your Biscuits.

Yet, there are a few others in the field who may have something to say about the outcome. A main consideration may be track bias. The week ended with the Aqueduct dirt surface favoring horse near or on the lead at the top of the stretch. If that holds throughout Saturday we could have an upset. Here is the field:

Mind Your Biscuits (Posse) is classy and on the improve. But may be at the wrong distance for his best effort. Also, jockey Rosario gave up the mount to ride Practical Joke for Chad Brown. His off the pace running style may be a problem, as well.

Seymourdini (Bernardini) is trying grade one level for the first time. Yet, past performances show him winning 3 of the last 4 by double digit lengths with his last, the Bold Ruler, showing his versatility. Top jockey, Jose Ortiz, stays with him. Could surprise.

Just Call Kenny (JumpStart) ships in from lesser ovals and seems to be off the form shown earlier in the year. Not fast enough to compete.

Tom’s Ready (More Than Ready) ran respectably last out in the Bold Ruler Handicap over a close-favoring-track. Will be running late with new jockey, Mike Smith. Should be in exotics.

Americanize (Concord Point) is another taking a big step up and maybe running for a small share of the purse. However, early speed may make for an interesting ending. Not sure where he will be at the end.

Sharp Azteca (Freud) is very dangerous, although he is conceding weight to others. Will be out running for the lead. New jockey Castellano will have to learn how to save energy for a demanding stretch run. If he can, he will be the one to beat.

Vulcan’s Forge (Giant’s Causeway) is in light, but is not fast enough for these.

Practical Joke (Into Mischief) is always in the mix and should benefit most from a fierce early pace. The Breeders’ Cup Mile was his first attempt against older horses. May need more maturing to win. Rosario’s confidence in him coupled with the success when he rides for Chad Brown gives him a sold chance.

Summer Revolution (Summer Bird) showed great promise in 2016. However, with 10 months off and only one race on the return, it is unlikely that he is ready.

Beasley (Shackleford) has the right running style to do well. His performance in the Bold Ruler Handicap was one of his better. May surprise in the exotics.

As mentioned, there will likely be a 3-horse dual for the lead which should set up for an honest pace. Seymourdini announced in the Bold Ruler he can off the pace. Expect him to back off and let the other two run. With Americanize backing up as stretch approaches Seymourdini will give it a try. Coming after these two will be Practical Joke, Mind Your Biscuits and Tom’s Ready.

Here is how they should finish:
     1.    Seymourdini (# 2)
     2.    Tom’s Ready (# 4)
     3.    Practical Joke (# 8)
     4.    Sharp Azteca (# 6)

$20 win on --- Seymourdini ($2)  ($20)
$20 place on --- Seymourdini (#2) ($20)
$6 Exacta Box --- Seymourdini (#2), Tom’s Ready (#4) and Practical Joke (#8) ($36)
$1 Trifecta Box ---- Seymourdini (#2), Tom’s Ready (#4), Practical Joke (#8) and Sharp Azteca (#6) ($24)

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