By Tom Quigley
$750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct
Race 10 (Saturday, December 7, 2019: 4:16 p.m./ET; 1:16 p.m./PT)
Mile on the main track (three-year-olds and upward)
First run in 1988, the Cigar Mile (G1) has seen both human and equine legendary winners throughout its 31-year history. At its inception in 1988, the race was named the NYRA Mile before changing nine years later to the Cigar Mile (G1), in honor of the legendary Bill Mott trainee who marveled racing fans around the world in the early to mid 1990’s. Fast forward to present day, and we find a large field of 11 entered in this year’s edition. We now introduce to you the field…
#1 WHITMORE comes off a very respectable effort in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), running third behind world class sprinters MITOLE and SHANCELOT. He draws the undesirable rail post in this spot and makes his first career start going farther than seven furlongs. Whether he will be effective going this far remains uncertain. That said, he has hit the board in 24 of 30 career starts, mostly against top class company.
#2 BAL HARBOUR cuts back in distance. Most recently, he ran third behind next out Clark Handicap (G1) winner TOM’S D’ETAT in the Fayette (G2). Two back, he was the runner up behind PRESERVATIONIST in the Woodward (G1). He sports a three-for-five for record going one mile and is trained by Todd Pletcher, who has won this race four times.
#3 FOREWARNED comes off an Ohio-bred win in the mile-and-a-quarter Endurance Stakes at Mahoning Valley Racecourse. Class is a major question mark.
#4 PAT ON THE BACK defeated #11 TRUE TIMBER in the Kelso Handicap (G2) two starts ago before finishing a subpar third in his most recent afternoon appearance, the Empire Classic for New-York breds. Keep in mind that the aforementioned run was going a mile-and-an-eighth while the Kelso (G2) was contested at a one-turn mile, which is the distance of this race. If he can duplicate his two-back effort, his speed figure indicates he can be competitive.
#5 MAXIMUM SECURITY, the 122 lb. highweight, faces older horses again after a game win against #10 TALE OF SILENCE and #11 TRUE TIMBER in the Bold Ruler (G3) last month. The ‘unofficial’ Kentucky Derby (G1) first place finisher has scored triple digit Beyer Speed Figures in his last six starts and always puts up a strong effort. Hard to discount.
#6 SPUN TO RUN was a gate to wire winner of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Santa Anita last month and has never lost at this mile distance. Possesses the quickness to get to the front and tenacity to deal with pace pressure. For those reasons, he is the one to beat.
#7 NICODEMUS has finished off the board in his last two starts against easier company than what he finds in this race. He’ll need to pick up the pace to be competitive.
#8 NETWORK EFFECT takes a massive step up in class after a hard-fought allowance win going a one-turn mile over this track five weeks ago. He makes his second start off an 11-month break for trainer Chad Brown, who wins at a 27% clip with runners making their second start off a layoff longer than 180 days. That said, class is a major question mark and speed figures indicate he’ll need to run faster to win.
#9 LOOKING AT BIKINIS is the other Chad Brown entrant. It’s worth noting that his last start resulted in a career high Beyer Speed Figure effort. Like his barn pal, however, whether he has the class to beat this group remains to be seen and his regular rider, Javier Castellano, opts to ride stablemate #8 NETWORK EFFECT instead. Mixed feelings.
#10 TALE OF SILENCE has finished behind #5 MAXIMUM SECURITY and #4 PAT ON THE BACK in his last two starts and is 0-for-6 this year. Notch or two below the best signed on in this race. #11 TRUE TIMBER is another that saw the tails of #5 MAXIMUM SECURITY and #4 PAT ON THE BACK in his last two afternoon appearances. Hard to envision him getting a winner’s circle picture after this race.
1. #5 MAXIMUM SECURITY - Tough as nails.
2. #6 SPUN TO RUN - Recent form is terrific, but may regress off big Breeders’ Cup win.
3. #4 PAT ON THE BACK - Back at his best distance.
LONGSHOT VALUE PLAY-#9 LOOKING AT BIKINIS - Well regarded colt sitting on a peak effort.
WAGERING STRATEGY - I’ll box my top two picks and longshot value play in exactas and make a straight win bet on my top choice.
BANKROLL PLAY ($50 Budget)
$5 Exacta Box: #5 MAXIMUM SECURITY and #6 SPUN TO RUN and #9 LOOKING AT BIKINIS ($30).
$20 Win: #5 MAXIMUM SECURITY
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