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Memories: 1995

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In Breeders' Mud, Cigar Emerges Victorious

By Andrew Beyer
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 29, 1995

ELMONT, N.Y., OCT. 28 -- As Cigar sought to complete a perfect season in the Breeders' Cup Classic, all the conditions were against him. He was running over a muddy Belmont Park racing surface that he didn't figure to like. He was breaking from Post 10 on a day when all the winners had stayed near the rail.

In the face of adversity, Cigar proved himself a champion. Accelerating strongly on the turn, he overpowered his rivals and ran the fastest 1 1/4 miles in the history of the Breeders' Cup. With his 12th straight victory -- 10 of them this year -- he became the first horse since Spectacular Bid to go undefeated on the way to the horse of the year title.

His triumph eclipsed everything else that happened on this rainy afternoon, even the stunning performance by Inside Information, who scored a 13 1/2-length runaway over an exceptional group of fillies and mares in the Distaff. The 2-year-old Unbridled's Song also delivered a top performance, stamping himself as a star of the future with his victory over three Wayne Lukas-trained colts in the Juvenile.

Other winners on the sport's biggest day were My Flag in the Juvenile Fillies, Desert Stormer in the Sprint, Ridgewood Pearl in the Mile and Northern Spur in the Turf.

Cigar's victory might appear almost inevitable with the benefit of hindsight, but when Jerry Bailey broke from his outside post he knew there was reason to worry. The Belmont track had been packed hard to prepare it for the heavy rains that came early this morning, and, Bailey observed, "The rail was a pretty good place to be today." He knew he couldn't afford to be tentative or passive -- as so many jockeys tend to be when they are riding an odds-on favorite. "If I didn't rush him from the 10 post, I might be eight- or 10-wide and get hung there all the way."

When the gate opened, Bailey showed why he is the best big-race rider in America, one who has won four of the past five runnings of the Classic. He hustled Cigar, and within a matter of a few strides got him into perfect position, sitting third behind the dueling leaders, L'Carriere and Star Standard. He maintained that position down the backstretch, but it was obvious that his mount was bursting with energy, ready to accelerate when the jockey turned him loose.

The crowd of 37,246 roared as Bailey unleashed Cigar on the turn, blasted past the leaders and angled him toward the rail. The Classic was as good as over. The 3-to-5 favorite drew away to a 2 1/2-length victory over L'Carriere, who held gamely to finish second, in front of the mud-loving Unaccounted For, another beneficiary of a rail trip. Last year's Classic winner, Concern, never got on track and finished eighth. The much-acclaimed foreign invader, Halling, who came to Belmont with an eight-race winning streak, finished last, 43 lengths behind the winner.

Cigar covered the 1 1/4 miles in the excellent time of 1:59 2/5. His final quarter mile was clocked in 22.91 seconds, which is literally too good to be true, suggesting the possibility of a malfunction by the electric timer.

Cigar finished his 1995 season with earnings of more than $4.8 million, more than an American thoroughbred has ever won in a single season. He has accomplished so much that most owners would declare that their horse has proved all they have to prove and whisk them off to stud. (This Breeders' Cup had lost some luster when Europe's best horse, Lammtarra, was retired after a four-race career.) But Allen Paulson confirmed after the Classic that his horse will stay in training next season.

His next main objective, Paulson and trainer Bill Mott agreed, will be the first running of the Dubai Cup in March; a victory in that $4 million race would make him the top money-winning horse of all time. Mott seemed unintimidated about preparing Cigar for a race over a sandy track in an unfamiliar country. "This horse showed today," the trainer said, "that he can overcome everything they throw at him."

© 1995 The Washington Post Company

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