The Garden Party and Other Cigar Stories

Any discussion of Holy Bull and the era of the mid-to-late ‘90s would not be complete without talking about Cigar and Skip Away. What follows are several behind-the-scenes stories about Cigar that, it is hoped, will take the readers to places they have never been.

Everyone is well aware of the remarkable accomplishments of both horses, so there is no need to rehash them. In order to keep this installment at a reasonable length, stories of Skip Away will have to wait for another day.

I was always close to these two great stars, mainly through my friendship with Skip Away’s owners Sonny and Carolyn Hine (I actually worked for Sonny at Monmouth Park for a DRF feature titled “Life on the Backstretch”), and my frequent visits in 1995 and ’96 with my then 11-year-old daughter to Bill Mott’s barn, where she posed for pictures with Cigar and Bill, who would let her ride his pony in and around the barn.

During a Blood-Horse online chat a year or two ago, someone asked me what was my most special moment in racing. Well, needless to say, there are dozens to choose from. But the one I came up with actually did not occur at a racetrack -- or a training center or a farm. It occurred at, of all places, Madison Square Garden.

Shortly after Cigar’s retirement, Madeleine Paulson announced that the horse would be honored and paraded at the National Horse Show at the Garden on Nov. 2. She had a close association with the Equestrian world and wanted to show Cigar off to her “horsey” friends and to a whole new audience.

No one knew how they were going to react, not being followers of Thoroughbred racing. But they were horse lovers first and foremost. Mott was not exactly enamored with the idea of vanning Cigar into the heart of Manhattan, and for good reason. It surely had never been done before. Most everyone else was skeptical to say the least about this wild idea.

Madison Square Garden went all out to pull this off. They invited Bill Cosby, members of the New York Rangers and Knicks, and brought in the Knicks’ cheerleaders and the Budweiser Clydesdales to lead Cigar’s van through the streets of the city to the Garden.

Cigar was given a police escort, as he traveled from Belmont Park to Manhattan in a full-sized van, with a huge color mural on both sides depicting Cigar in action. Next to the mural in large blue print with white stars was the name “Cigar.” Above it against a red background were the words “Champion and Horse of the Year,” and below it, “America’s Racehorse.”

The van met up with the Knicks cheerleaders the Clydesdales, and other participants on a quiet side street several blocks from the Garden. There, the proceedings were organized by MSG officials. Lining the street were a number of fans, several holding posters and banners. One of the posters read: “To the Great Cigar. Thanks for the Memories.” Outside the Garden were groups of school children waiting to get a glimpse of the great Cigar.

Inside the Garden, more than 16,000 people awaited Cigar’s entrance prior to the Horse Show.

By now, Seventh Avenue was closed for about 10 to 15 blocks. It was an eerie sight looking down one of New York City’s busiest avenues and seeing nothing, not a single car. When everyone was organized the Cigar parade commenced. With bagpipers, the Knicks cheerleaders, the New York City Mounted Police Corps, and the Clydesdales leading the way, the procession turned down Seventh Avenue to the quizzical looks of passersby.

At the Garden, Jerry Bailey posed for photos with the children. Finally, the van arrived, and Cigar, after peering out at the strange surroundings, was led into the bowels of America’s most famous arena by Mott and assistant trainer Tim Jones.

At 2 p.m., Bill Cosby came riding in on a horse. After dismounting, he held a microphone directly in front of ringmaster Barry Kiger’s coach horn. As a musical crescendo filled the Garden, the crowd erupted in applause in anticipation of Cigar’s entrance.

When Cigar made his appearance, with Bailey aboard, everyone rose and saluted the champion. Bailey then rose slightly in the saddle, and Cigar, as if on cue, broke into a graceful canter worthy of any show horse. The crowd went wild. With Cigar striding majestically around the arena as if part of the Horse Show, the public address announcer bellowed: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Cigar!”

Bailey then brought Cigar to the middle of the arena, where he was draped in a blanket of red, white, and blue flowers and then presented with baskets of carrots and apples by members of the Rangers and Knicks, including Hall of Fame Ranger Rod Gilbert. After the speeches, Bailey dismounted and Cigar was led around the arena by Mott, as a flurry of flashbulbs popped all around the Garden.

Mott turned the horse over to Jones, who continued to lead him around. Then the lights in the arena went dark, and a single spotlight shone down on Cigar. When a solitary trumpet began playing “Auld Lang Syne” I have to admit I lost it. Soon after, the entire band joined in, adding to the emotional impact. Standing on the floor of the arena, in front of the crowd, I tried to wipe away the tears before the lights came back on. When they did, I turned around, and almost everyone in the seats was wiping their eyes. That was the single most emotional moment I’ve ever experienced in racing, perhaps in part because Cigar, those closest to him, and myself, were so far removed from the world of racing that the moment transcended the sport and seemed surreal.

Afterward, Jones said. “It was all I could do not to break down. The whole experience brought me to tears. I really believe he knew what was going on and he put on quite a show for everyone. When they played that song it was a joyous moment. But it was also very sad because I knew this was really the end.”

It was Jones who had accompanied Cigar to Dubai and supervised his early training for the inaugural Dubai World Cup. I was there, covering the event for the Daily Racing Form. The Maktoums put on a show that was unlike anything ever seen before, from the outrageous party in the desert to the raucous rock concert to the dazzling pre-race festivities. On race night, a salmon pink and golden sunset, combined with the floodlights from Nad al Sheba, illuminated the ornate mosques off in the distance, making them sparkle like Disney’s Magic Kingdom at twilight.

I watched the race at the top of the small grandstand with Ray Paulick, then the editor of the Blood-Horse. When Cigar battled back after appearing to be beaten to win by a half-length, Ray and I jumped up and down like school kids and hugged each other, and then tore through the crowd down to the winners’ circle. Needless to say, that was an unforgettable moment as well.

But it was earlier that year at the 1996 Eclipse Awards dinner at the Hotel del Coronado near San Diego that I really became close to Cigar. Not only was I assigned to cover the event, I was also flying from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale that same night on Allen Paulson’s Gulfstream 4 jet, which at the time held the speed record for traveling around the world. The following day, Cigar was scheduled to make his 6-year-old debut in the Donn Handicap.

The other passengers included Allen and Madeleine Paulson, Madeleine’s beloved Jack Russell terrier Oliver, Bill and Tina Mott, Jerry and Suzee Bailey, and my DRF colleague, the legendary Joe Hirsch. My first thought was, if the plane went down I’d be a mere footnote at the bottom of the story.

Normally, Paulson would fly the plane himself, but because of the overnight flight, scheduled to arrive in Fort Lauderdale at about 5:30 a.m. and the big day ahead, he decided to hire a crew and go as a passenger. After boarding the plane, Paulson undid his suspenders, rolled up his sleeves, and took a seat in the front row. Soon after takeoff, Madeleine, reverting to her days as a flight attendant for Pan Am, took drink orders and put out plates of cakes and pastries and platters of food.

Mott and Bailey sat up front handicapping the Saturday card. Mott turned to me and said, “Well, what do you think, Steve? This is a tough assignment, but I guess somebody’s gotta to do it.”

About 100 miles west of Tampa, the plane was scheduled to fly over Checkpoint Cigar, for which the horse was named. “Do you want to go up to the cockpit when we fly over it,” Madeleine asked me. “You can go up there anytime you want.”

After beginning to doze off, I looked up through half-closed eyes to see Madeleine covering me with a blanket, bless her heart.

When I awoke, the lights were off and everyone was asleep. Although Cigar would be a heavy favorite in the Donn, Mott was cautiously optimistic. Here he was going to Cigar’s debut and having to stare at the Horse of the Year Eclipse Award that was sitting right in front of him. “I don’t like this scenario of getting all these Eclipse Awards, and everyone is happy, and then, all of a sudden, it’s D-Day again in less than 24 hours,” he said. “We’re setting ourselves up for a bunch of long faces.”

At 4:20 a.m., Paulson began to stir. He walked to the back of the plane and told me were getting close to Checkpoint Cigar. About 55 miles from Sarasota I made my way to the cockpit, having to gingerly step over Oliver. The view of the Florida coastline was magnificent, as if we were in a simulator. Although the lights got closer it was as if we weren’t moving. “Isn’t that beautiful?” the pilot asked. “It’s like a big video screen. We’re flying 80% the speed of sound, but this plane flies faster than this.”

We quickly passed over the darkness of the Everglades and descended on the lights of Eastern Florida. The landing was smooth as silk, and after the plane came to a halt, Paulson got up, put his suspenders back on, rolled down his sleeves, and said to Mott, “Ready to go to work, Bill?”

Several yards from the plane, Paulson’s limo awaited to take us all to our respective hotels. As I stepped down from the plane, Paulson reminded me, “Well, you just flew in the fastest plane in the world.”

It was only appropriate, because later that day I’d be watching the fastest horse in the world.

These have been three of my most memorable and unusual experiences in racing, and they all involved Cigar. This horse had style, class, and charisma, and was one of the most intelligent horses I’ve ever been around. It’s been fun looking back at those days, and I hope everyone got a chance to see a side of the sport they’d never seen before.

View the Cigar Slide Show

Watch Video of Cigar at the Kentucky Horse Park 

69 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Wanda

Wow you did it again! It felt like I was right there on the plane. You put a human perspective on people I've only read about. Super writing job.

11 Dec 2008 1:49 PM
Tiznowbaby

Great story. It takes a special horse (and the right connections) to transcend the sport. Great memories.

11 Dec 2008 2:12 PM
DONNA

 What a truly amazing story Steve. I felt like I was there at the Garden viewing the spectacle in person. Cigar was truly a great race horse. I saw him a few years ago at the Horse Park and found him awesome to look at. Also had my picture took with him. Planning another trip too the Park in '09 and will visit with him again. Thanks for a really great story.

11 Dec 2008 2:19 PM
another steve

You big lug, couldn't you just once write a boring black-and-white piece instead of the colorful songs you sing so that we could be assured you're indeed human?

11 Dec 2008 2:24 PM
ruffian518

This article was wonderful to read Mr Haskin. I always loved Cigar,I've watched his races so many times it's unreal.But hearing these stories from you about the other side of Cigar, meaning at the Square and the plane,about him being so smart,classy etc.is greater still. I was beginning to think people were forgetting about Cigar. Evidently I was wrong. Thanks for bringing this to us fans.

11 Dec 2008 2:36 PM
Millreef

That MSG moment gave me the chills! We definitely need more of those "out of racing" moments in this sport. It's that kind of passion that contributes to me dragging myself to a casino to watch the Internationals from Hong Kong this Saturday night...without ever having a bet! Truly crazy!

11 Dec 2008 2:48 PM
Sweet Defense (Fr)

Now I'm a blubbery mess. You brought me back to when Cigar was king and conquered the world. He's my all-time favorite horse, and I flew to San Diego to see him run, not because it was his try at the record, but because it was Cigar. Totally agree on his charisma, he really captured people's imagination, even those outside of racing, in a way few other horses do. While I'm sad he never got to pass on his soundness and talent, I am glad he is at the KHP, still thrilling fans.

11 Dec 2008 2:57 PM
Rita

This is awesome.  Is there anyway to see any pictures of the Madison Square Garden event?  Is there a video somewhere?  You would think an event that special would of had TV coverage.  If there is let us all know where to look.  Anyhow thanks so much for sharing your adventures.

11 Dec 2008 3:12 PM
geegees

mr haskins, your writing is amazing again you have brought to life only memories in time i have been lucky to see the great cigar twice once at woodbine and just a year and a half ago at the horse park he too is amazing it is too bad that the times of the truly greats have passed i include the paulsons in that comment as well may their legacies live on in writings such as your own

11 Dec 2008 3:48 PM
bill

Truly amazing stories, Steve.  I vaguely remember Cigar being honored at MSG.  I cannot recall anything like this happening before.  When Man o'War died there was some kind of elaborate ceremony in Japan - of all places - honoring the passing of the great horse, but while he was alive I don't think he received an honor similar to the one Cigar received.  Cigar was a great poster boy for racing.  We could certainly use another like him.

11 Dec 2008 4:19 PM
The Hatter

Mr. Haskin, you do know how to stir the emotions, and I too am a blubbery mess.  A picture of Cigar holds an honored place on my living room wall, since he was my impelling force into the world of racing.  He will always be Number 1.  How fortunate you were to have experienced that moving MSG performance in person, and how fortunate we are that you have shared it!  Thank you.  Do you have any idea if that farewell to Cigar was recorded and if it is available for purchase?

11 Dec 2008 4:36 PM
Bellwether

thanks for a great ride...ROLL ANOTHER ONE!!!...LLTK!!!

11 Dec 2008 6:03 PM
lengua92

Thanks for writing these Steve

11 Dec 2008 6:06 PM
txhorsefan

Others will leave comments that will be far more eloquent than I am able to muster, but I must simply say thank you, thank you, thank you.  Your words weave such a lovely visual story, it's like I'm able to *see* the events again - wonderful.  Cigar may no longer hold the title of the world's highest money earning horse, but he will always hold my heart and I treasure each visit I get to have to see him at KHP.  Thank you for sharing another side of his glorious days.  I hope he is never overlooked or forgotten.

11 Dec 2008 6:14 PM
Dona

Thank you fro ruining my makeup, I cried my eyes out when you said you lost it. I felt the entire performance of that night. Loved Cigar and I too have a picture of him in my collection. I don't like it that Curlin gets the same credit for all money leader because Cigar ran and won a lot more races.

11 Dec 2008 6:22 PM
lobieb

Steve, please keep the stories coming.  Cigar has been my favorite for years and anything you could write about him is just super.  I tried to watch as many of his races as possible as it kept me very interested in horseracing.  If Cigar had been making all the money that the horses make today he would still be #1 as he won more races than Curlin but to me he still is and will aways be #1.

11 Dec 2008 7:02 PM
Steve Haskin

I'm so glad you all enjoy these. It makes me want to keep writing them. To address some of your comments and questions:

Another Steve, that is some compliment. I appreciate it, as I do all the other comments. There's no great secret involved. It's all about passion, and having an outlet to release all these stories that have built up through the years.

Rita, Madison Square Garden did make a video of it, but they never released it for sale. If you wanted a copy then, you had to go thru channels and they charged $50. I took pictures and had them in an album for years. Then I took a bunch out to send somewhere for some reason I cant remember. I never sent them, but I cant remember what I did with them. Theyre around here somewhere. I'll definitely look for them.

TxHorseFan, your eloquence ranks right up there at the top. Thank you. And thank you all for taking the time to comment.

11 Dec 2008 7:23 PM
Old Gray Mare

Wow!

Your pieces remind me of Joe Palmer's  from 'This Is Racing'!

Thanks for the memories.

11 Dec 2008 8:00 PM
fanofallthree

I'm choked up reading about it.  I can just imagine what it was like to have been there - CIGAR standing in a spotlight in a darkened MSG while a trumpet  heralded Auld Lang Syne.

WOW!  Gives me goose bumps.

Thanks, Steve, for sharing your behind the scenes memories with us. You capture a reader by the throat and don't let go until the story is finished.  Waiting for the next captivity.

11 Dec 2008 8:15 PM
Kelso

Thanks again for a wonderful story, your words always put me in a "happy place" where I know I'm not alone in my love and passion for the Thoroughbred.  

11 Dec 2008 8:38 PM
Matthew W

It's all about passion, you said it Steve---That is how the words fall out of you, cuz it's real/you lived it.....and I thank you for that, as well as for your passion.....

11 Dec 2008 8:59 PM
TWIN SPIRIES DERBY HAT MAN

MR.HASKIN,

Two things happen when we read & remember " CIGAR" and read your writings...

OUR HEARTS BEAT FASTER !

11 Dec 2008 9:04 PM
MIKE RELVA

HI STEVE:

AS USUAL,A TRULY GREAT WORK. CIGAR WAS ALWAYS MY FAVORITE,NOTHING SHORT OF A REMARKABLE SUPERHORSE. I VISITED HIM IN SEPT. AND HE STILL LOOKS WONDERFUL,LIKE A MILLION,HARD TO EVEN IMAGINE HE'S ALMOST NINETEEN. STEVE,YOU ARE A REMARKABLE WRITER WITH STYLE,THANKS.

11 Dec 2008 9:29 PM
mrohan

Steve,

I can't believe I don't remember that event! Can't imagine an owner these days taking their Horse of the Year into Manhattan.Though I was never a big Cigar fan. Rich owner,powerful barn,Jerry Bailey. I'm more of an underdog guy.By the way, your article about The Mig following his first Breeders Cup win was heartwarming. Your recognition of him as a winner predating his performance on Desert Code puts you in that club yourself,my friend.

11 Dec 2008 9:33 PM
LanceS

Remembering Cigar also highlights what a great owner Alan Paulson was.  He ran Cigar everywhere, and record crowds came out to see him.  I believe every race he ran in over those last two years was televised.  He proved that a great horse marketed right can still bring attention to the sport of racing, especially if the owner prefers seeing him on the track rather than in his stall.

The mention of Oliver reminds me of a day at the Keeneland July sale.  A lady was walking around with a basket of Jack Russell puppies, offering them for sale.  At one point I went into the small room Keeneland had set up at that time where people could watch the days races.  Shortly after I sat down Mrs. Paulson and her daughter came in, carrying their new Jack Russell puppy.  So I saw Oliver up close before he was famous!

Finally, if you haven't seen Cigar at the Horse Park, do so.  He's quite a ham, and still loves posing for all his fans.  The Horse Park has one of the all time great horse racing souvenirs - every 6-8 weeks they change halters on all the horses in the Hall of Champions and anyone can buy the old ones.  My Cigar halter hangs on my living room wall right next to my picture of Cigar winning the Breeders Cup Classic.  What memories they inspire!

11 Dec 2008 9:33 PM
alydar78

Great stories Steve, I love to read your stuff.  I would like to share a story about Cigar myself.  After he was retired and they finally gave up on him producing in the shed, I had just heard that they were sending him to the KY Horse park but didn't know when.  I was at a rodeo event being held at the Horse Park Arena with my then girl friend and I decided to take a walk. It was dark and there were no lights on around the Hall of Champions.  At a distance you could barely make out this figure in one of the paddocks.  I didn't have to get any closer to know exactly who it was.  His class was telegraphed through the darkness as deliberate as the blinding sun of Dubai. I stopped, held my breath and told her, that's got to be him.  We went over to the fence to take a closer look and validated our instinct.  Just like you describe above, class, inteligence, and a spectacular physical.  I didn't get to be at MSG or ride on the G4 but I bet my goose bumps and dreams where just as large that night.  An encounter to remember forever....      

11 Dec 2008 9:57 PM
STEVE STONE

Hello Steve..Another prolific and poignant masterpice all woven together in an mosaic tapestry of passion and detail and dedication to your chosen craft...... You are an wordsmith extraordinaire in every dimension..For those of us whom are also patrons of the theatre..I would certainly love to see you ..if that desire and inclination is ever there..to cast your creative propensities somewhat further and wider... and to pen an book....play....for Broadway..I am very sanguine that The Great White Way will welcome you with its arms outstretched as well as not only your legions of fans..but theatre goers alike...and of course its bevy of critical critics...We can now change the phrase "the horses are at the post" to opening night at The Shubert... "Two On The Aisle Please"..Thank you again Steve for your kind window and regards always..Steve Stone..East Hanover..New Jersey..

11 Dec 2008 11:08 PM
Debbie K

Fantastic, as always.  I wonder if there is camera footage of this - I would love to see the coverage of this on one of the ESPN presetations when they are covering a race.  Much better than Hank and his piggy bank.....

11 Dec 2008 11:49 PM
Bellwether

this MARVELOUS GAME deserves another GREAT ONE & SOON!!!...TC N Oh! NINE???...LLTK!!!

11 Dec 2008 11:58 PM
Kathleen A.

Thanks for the great memories of the great Cigar. He is one of my favorite race horses also, And had the privilege of having my picture made with him at the Kentucky Horse Park. I look forward to visiting with him there again along with Alysheba,Funny Cide,and others. I truly enjoy your writings on these beautiful athletes. Keep up the good work.

12 Dec 2008 12:23 AM
Steve Haskin

I hadn't planned on it, but because of the passionate comments so far, I'm thinking of writing a Part 2 on Cigar for next week. I have other Cigar stories, more racetrack related, but behind-the-scenes nonetheless.

12 Dec 2008 2:59 AM
Bob P

Steve, fantastic story. It's a shame they did not make that video available. We've visited Cigar multiple times and he still has that great presence about him. You should do a Kentucky Horse Park visit story. Especially now that the new arrivals are there. Maybe on John Henry's birthday. That would make a good story.

12 Dec 2008 6:19 AM
Luvthehorses

Thank you so much for the great stories on Cigar. I can't wait for Part 2. I could read your stories over and over again and as a matter of fact I do. Cigar is the greatest and one of my dreams is to visit the Kentucky Horse Park to visit with him and all of the other great horses that I love.

12 Dec 2008 8:40 AM
Phil F

You are as they say in racing MUCH THE BEST.

12 Dec 2008 8:46 AM
txhorsefan

Yes!  Please do another Cigar story next week!  You can see from all our comments, we cannot get enough of your writing or the magic of Cigar.  Thank you also for the compliment.  I feel honored.  Thank you.

12 Dec 2008 8:49 AM
Lance S

By the way, if you like to cry over horse stories, find the article Kenny Mayne wrote about Cigar after Mr. Paulson's death.  You'd have to be a stone not to tear up over that one.

12 Dec 2008 9:20 AM
Quadsd

Thanks Steve for letting me relive that wonderful day at MSG.  I was lucky to be there with one of my friends for the horse show.  We learned of Cigars appearance a few days before we left for N.Y.

There wasn't a dry eye in the place and I've got tears again after reading your article.  Later that day, Madeleine's horse America One won the Grand Prix.

12 Dec 2008 9:40 AM
George

I'm not a mushy type fellow, but you sure know how to pull at my heart strings. I did rather burst out laughing in a quiet room full of college students at the library when I read the "footnote" comment. Thanks agian Steve.

12 Dec 2008 9:47 AM
Lynne Veitch

I was there Steve, & still have my Bloodhorse with Cigar on the cover with spotlight shining on him.  I actually drove behind the van into Manhattan.  Also, Madeleine's jumper won his class on that day to make it truly amazing for the Paulsons.  Now the great National Horse Show is gone too.  I grew up with that, being a Manhattan native, show horse rider, etc. before turning to the racehorse world.  Such fun to relive that wonderful day.  Thank you, Steve.  Lynne

12 Dec 2008 9:48 AM
LoveMyLava

You know, it's a funny thing, but I was thinking about racing this morning (not unusual, in and of itself), long before I logged on and read this. And earlier, I was thinking to myself, "Who are the gatekeepers anymore?"..."Who can continue to tell the tales, because they LOVE them, not only because they are gifted writers?"...

I thought of Steve Haskin first.

It's fun to be right :)

Thank you Steve, for keeping the glory, the passion and the stories alive. Horse racing's glory days will never be a thing of the past, as long as there are people who tell the stories, and carry their passion for it into the stories that do indeed exist today, sometimes under the rubble this sport hands us. You might have to dig a little deeper, but they're there.

This is racing, and this is why we love it.

Thank you, Steve.

12 Dec 2008 10:15 AM
Barbara

Stories such as these are priceless memories to fans of these

horses and of horse racing. Because we get attached to certain horses, it is an emotional sport.

I love hearing about "the indomitable,unbeatable, incorparable Cigar" as the call concluded his Breeders Cup win.

12 Dec 2008 10:40 AM
C Tayala

Wonderful writing about a legendary, much-loved horse.  I was not aware of the MSG "show", but I am thankful that you brought it alive for us.  There has to be something besides marketing to get people to respond like this to a horse--whatever Curlin's talents were, they did not compare to the "presence" that emanates from Cigar.  If you could try to reproduce the MSG moment with Curlin, it would never be the same.  A horse like Cigar needs nothing but his spirit and heart to make his way into ours.

12 Dec 2008 11:09 AM
Will W

Granted, Cigar was a truly great racehorse who deserved fitting tributes. Steve was deeply moved by the Madison Square Garden's tribute to him. Understandable, but I'd have to take issue with the nature of the whole affair. The episode Steve describes seems to be a bizarre, circus-like extravaganza replete with celebrities like Bill Cosby and a New York Ranger hockey player, New York Knicks cheerleaders, even the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales, et al - entities who played no role in, had no bearing on, and had little ability to appreciate the achievements of this thoroughbred racehorse and whose name probably slipped from their memory within the next week. Tributes like that to Cigar would be better handled at racetracks where he performed in front of the racing public with fitting commentary from those responsible for his career accomplishments and those in the racing industry who are truly able to appreciate, evaluate, and verbalize the horse's achievements and place in racing history. By all means, invite the larger public to attend, but don't reduce the tribute to an entertainment world-based celebrity spectacle and extravaganza where people are invited to make boring, uninformed PR comments about the racehorse simply because they belong to the world of professional entertainment. IMO  this "show" with all its banal, inane glitz and glitter just cheapened and demeaned the tribute to the horse. Moreover, let's keep these tributes in perspective. Cigar was greeted in Manhattan as if he was some kind of god or messiah to which we should all offer homage and sacrifice rather than simply honor as a truly great racehorse for rarely seen accomplishments on the track. The atmosphere in Manhattan seemed more like that of ancient Egypt where they worshipped an Apis bull, i.e., a mere animal, as a god and held processionals for the animal to do him homage. As much as I appreciated Cigar and enjoyed him on the track, I don't want to see his memory tarnished by spectacles that turn him into some kind of man-made carved  idol. One final note: Steve promised the Cigar stories would be off-beat and he certainly did not disappoint on that score.

12 Dec 2008 11:17 AM
Terry

there's someone that may have a copy of vhs or dvd of Cigar's Madison Square Garden Farewell - give me a holler if you may be interested and I'll give you the information for him.

diane11820022@yahoo.com

12 Dec 2008 11:18 AM
SalemPoe

Now that was a sendoff worthy of a champion.

12 Dec 2008 12:23 PM
DONNA

  Will W., perhaps it's not the animals who are mere but the arrogant, egotistcal humans who inhabit this earth that are mere.

12 Dec 2008 12:48 PM
Rami

check out this link for a dvd or vhs copy of Cigar's Madison Square Garden Farewell ceremony:

cgi.ebay.com/.../eBayISAPI.dll

E-bay Item #70286905655

12 Dec 2008 1:34 PM
The Deacon

Excellent article Steve on Cigar. He was obviously one of the best of his time. I still think Holy Bull was more versatle and had more raw ability. Skip Away was also a hard hitting fabulous handicap horse. The trio made for great racing back in the 1990's when the sport needed a shot in the arm. I remember being at Del Mar in 1996 watching Cigar lose in the Pacific Classic. Jerry Bailey got him beat that day. He engaged Siphon for the lead and ran out of gas allowing Dare and Go to win at about 40 to 1. Siphon had way too much speed and I felt Bailey never let Cigar relax. I felt the same way about Elliot aboard Smarty Jones in the Belmont Stakes. Just an error in judgement that cost two great race horses a place in history. Question Steve, if the European horses are so favorable to Santa Anita's Pro Ride surface why don't they run out here during the winter meet. You would think that they would be very successful based on the Breeders Cup experience.

Happy Holidays..............

12 Dec 2008 2:10 PM
joe

We need Steve Haskin with all of his color and love for the sport on Triple Crown televised coverage.  And Cigar is a lovable ham; saw him being bathed at the horse park and he picked up the hose and played with it; 'got some great pictures!

12 Dec 2008 2:27 PM
alybar

You have a special talent with words and horses.  I love what you  write.  I am looking forward to many more stories from the other side.  I wish you would write about John Henry and  Cigar at the KHP.

12 Dec 2008 4:41 PM
Steve Haskin

Deacon, the European horses can't run at the SA winter meet because they are no longer in training. Once they begin to lose their coat they are put away until the flat season re-opens in March. In Europe, racing from November to March basically is only for jumpers. As for Skip Away, he will get his due after part 2 of Cigar. Yes, that was some trio from 1994 to 1998.

12 Dec 2008 4:49 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, Alybar. I wrote a book on John Henry, and it contained an entire chapter on his days at the Ky. Horse Park. If the Blood-Horse still has any in stock, the 2000 Breeders' Cup souvenir magazine had a feature titled "A Day in the Life of Cigar," that had some sensational photographs of him at the Horse Park.

12 Dec 2008 5:17 PM
Blue Dawn

Thank you for yet another incredible retelling of such memorable events, Steve!  Working with Cigar every day, I always try my best to realize that this charismatic, breathtaking specimen truly is the horse who accomplished all of those stunning feats--but truth be told, I don't know if I can ever appreciate him enough.  Actually working with him, understandably, makes you realize that in most ways he's simply a horse--he just wants to eat, sleep, frolic, and be entertained and receive attention.  But I could never fail to be awed by his aura and his eagle eyes--witnessing one alert gaze into the distance or at a horse passing by will stop you in your tracks.  I feel so privileged to work with such an amazing creature every day; your entry helps to further remind me why this horse and my job are so incredible!

12 Dec 2008 7:16 PM
cwoodson

Steve Haskin- the writer that makes grown men cry! Thank you for sharing with us your stories and writing a Cigar Part 2. I can't wait to read it and tear up again!

12 Dec 2008 7:46 PM
NEVERKICKYOURDOG

STEVE,

YOU ARE A VERY GOOD WRITER AND, OBVIOUSLY, ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT HORSES AND HORSE RACING.

ALSO, OBVIOUS, YOU ARE ABLE TO STIR UP THE EMOTIONS AND PASSIONS IN ALOT OF YOUR READERS(THE ONLY THINGS THAT BRING ME TO TEARS ARE "MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME" THE FIRST SATURDAY IN MAY AND "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE).

THE POINTS THAT I AM TRYING TO GET AT:

 1.  YOU NEED A MUCH WIDER READERSHIP; &

 2.  RACING NEEDS ITS STARS...CIGAR, HOLY BULL, SILKY SULLIVAN, DARK MIRAGE, RUFFIAN, DAMASCUS, DR. FAGER, AFFIRMED...........

"GO BABY GO" IS NOT THE ANSWER AND MARKETING DOLLARS ARE TIGHT.  SO,IT IS TIME FOR SOMEONE TO STEP FORWARD BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE FOR RACING!

12 Dec 2008 7:53 PM
russell maiers

Yep, that was great Steve. His Dubai race was remarkable and so fantastic, what a horse!

As for the part when you determined if something bad happened you would be just a footnote, well I was picturing your thoughts and expression as I read, and then fell off my chair,rolled on the carpet laughing like a child. You made my day. Thankyou!

12 Dec 2008 8:48 PM
Paseana80

Steve, I want to thank you, just like most everybody else, for this incredible story.  But, personally, I want to thank you for sharing your experience with Allen and Madeleine Paulson.  You gave me just a little window into the way Allen was as a person.  He was and still is my idol.  He always seemed a bit shy and uncomfortable in front of cameras in post-race interviews, so we never were able to get an idea of what he was really like.

I actually met him and shook his hand once myself at Del Mar (early 90's), and talk about star-struck!  I just stood there and looked at him and couldn't remember the English language! LOL!

He came from nowhere....nobody in the industry had heard anything about him until maybe the late 70's, when he started getting active at Keeneland.  In roughly 2 decades, he put a breeding program in place that is mind-boggling!  Theatrical, Strawberry Road, Palace Music, and Jade Hunter......he didn't breed those stallions, but we see Paulson's fingerprints in and through them.  He had a blueprint and he stuck to it.  I think he's still the leading Breeders Cup breeder on the completion of 25 runnings of the event......about 8 years after his death.  I don't know that I'm right on that, so please correct me if I'm not.

Claiborne, Calumet, and Darby Dan got to be where they were over generations, both human and equine.  But Allen Paulson got to be where he was in about 30 years or so through a passion, a drive, and a love for the sport of horse racing.

Sorry for rambling on like this, but I'm so grateful to you for giving me a little vignette of what he was like.  I really don't think there will ever be anyone like him.

And I still don't know how come there isn't a big stakes race named in his honor!

12 Dec 2008 8:54 PM
LyndaP31

Wow, what a great story!!! I loved it! I am looking forward to part 2!!! This spring I am going to be going to the horse park to see Cigar. I saw him in February in his stall and I was in awe, even though I coudlnt see him so well, I am looking forward to seeing him in his field.

12 Dec 2008 9:19 PM
gammyp6

Thank you again Steve. I work all day with numbers and the numbers are way down here in Vegas. Sin City has become Sad City. I really needed an outlet for my stress and it came in the form of another cathartic story from SH. I cried it all out and now I'm ready to go to the Strip and help the economy recover. What have you got on Forego? He is one of my all time favs along with Cigar and John Henry...and the list goes on.

13 Dec 2008 12:26 AM
Runfast159

As always, a wonderful and rich tale.  As he does for many, Cigar holds a special place in my heart.  For some reason, my husband was watching the race with me the day that I had been so disappointed about the loss of Holy Bull.  And he watched Cigar's next race with me as well.  This from a man who was never all that interested in the sport.  Soon it became our most anticipated weekend event, waiting for Cigar to run! Together we experienced the incredible highs and lows (Del Mar) that come with the sport, and for that I will always be grateful.  Cigar was a horse you couldn't help but get behind.  Bill Mott won me over as a trainer.  He is just pure class through and through.  And the patience he and the Paulson's had with Cigar was admirable. Thanks again for the story, and I do hope more are on the way.  Even though I have read Cigar, America's Horse, I'm sure you'll amaze me even more with your own personal stories.

13 Dec 2008 1:15 AM
Vicki

Tx for your wonderful insider stories.  NOTHING makes me cry more than the '95 BC Classic watching Jerry & Cigar & listening to Tom Durkins call.  I blubber EVERYTIME.  (actually watching Secretariat's tape w/ the music does get me sniffling too).  ahh.  Tx Steve & count me in on the vote for part 2 of Cigar as well as the vote on many more historical blogs

I'm getting all the new books for Xmas (Sham, Matriarchs Vol II, Kelso etc)  A good holiday is one w/ new racing stories, a good new Steve Haskin blog & all the mares/horses in the barn sain et sauf.

13 Dec 2008 1:44 AM
Steve Haskin

You're all very kind with your comments. I appreciate every one. There is so much negativity in racing now and so many crises it's good once in a while to look back and focus on all that's great with the sport, with the hope that it can one day return to the way it was. We've had some extraordinary horses in this decade, too, but they don't stay around very long, and therefore are not given the chance to leave as indelible a mark as their predecessors did.

Blue Dawn, it's great that you're able to work with Cigar. That has to be extremely rewarding. I'm going to attempt to bring out some of that personality you mention in part 2.

NKYD, racing does need its stars. Perhaps an owner or two will read these stories and be encouraged to keep their big horses in training longer. I guess we need to hope for owners who are wealthy enough to say no to Sheikh Mohammend and other breeders.

Paseana, Allen Paulson was as classy as his horse and was the perfect owner for Cigar. He was nice to everyone and I never once heard him complain. And Madeleine was perfect for him. She truly loved the horses.

Gammy, I've got plenty on Forego, one of my all-time favorites, and I will get to him very soon.

Vicki, Durkin's call of the '95 Classic remains one of the great calls of all time. Needless to say, it was a lot of fun being back at the barn after that race.

13 Dec 2008 3:52 AM
txhorsefan

After re-reading this wonderful story last night I decided to search around the internet for more.  For those who are interested, Barbara Livingston's beautiful site has some fantastic photos of the mighty Cigar. Included are some of the scenes of this garden party Mr. Haskin has related to us.  Great photos to go along with a great story.

13 Dec 2008 10:57 AM
Abbie Knowles

Dear Mr Haskin,

Thanks so very much for the brilliant article you wrote about CIGAR.  He is one of my joint second favourite horses, by a nose, just behind his grandfather SEATTLE SLEW!!!!!  The others in joint second place are DAHLIA, SEA PIGEON, THE MINSTREL, NIJINSKY, CAPTAIN CHRISTY, GRAND CANYON (NZ), TINGLE CREEK, DUBAI MILLENIUM AND A.P. INDY!!!!!

I am glad i am not the only one who misplaces things!

Bill Mott, Allen Paulson and Jerry Bailey signed a photograph of Cigar winning The Woodward Stakes and Bill Mott sent it to me; it is one of my most treasured possessions!  

Also my friend Jeremy Early went to the Dubai World Cup Cigar won and asked Jerry Bailey to sign the racecard for me which he did using the words, Abbie, all the best, Jerry Bailey and CIGAR!!!!!  I treasure that very much too and know exactly where they both are!  

I live in England but since falling in love with a picture of SEATTLE SLEW as a two year old I have been an avid follower of American racing.

In fact have just been through the card at Aqueduct today on the ATR website to see which of Seattle Slew's descendants are in action today.  My favourites who are, are NUMAANY and MALIBU MOONSHINE!!!

CIGAR IS ONE A ZILLION AND I LOVE HIM SO MUCH!  I love all horses but do have favourites.

Thanks for the memories my friends!

13 Dec 2008 12:44 PM
Marilyn

Thank you so much Steve for sharing your experiences of being around one of the greatest race horses of our time; Cigar remains my favorite horse; he is the horse that got me interested in horse racing; reading about his personality and his winning one race after the other; and then of course there is his wonderful name: Cigar. You are so fortunate to have been so close to him and his connections. However, there is a tinge of sadness that remains to this day because Cigar will never be able to pass on his wonderful pedigree, his durability, stamina, determination and heart to offspring. Thanks again.

13 Dec 2008 3:59 PM
Marilyn

I forgot to add to my last comment;  Are you aware that Steve Byk really can't stand Cigar? he o absolutey disses this horse everytime he hears the name Cigar; Mr. Byk's voice becomes filled with anger when he is forced to discuss cigar and  it drives me crazy; for the record I like Steve Byk and I very much like when you are on his show but his dislike of Cigar is puzzling; he simply feels that Cigar was overrated and didn't beat any horses that were worth".  perhaps you could address this with him when you are on his show. Many thanks for your love of the thoroughbred expressed poetically through words.

13 Dec 2008 4:33 PM
Blue Dawn

Steve,

I'm very much looking forward to part 2 of your Cigar tales!  Few people, I'm sure, could bring to life in writing his personality as adeptly as you.  He's such a ham and loves to entertain so much, on top of his regality--I'm sure you'll be able to treat all who don't know his character deeply to an up-close and personal revelation of it!

13 Dec 2008 4:53 PM
barb

I would like to add my thanks to Steve for this great post. Unlike most of the recent horses you've written about I have abundant memories of Cigar and count him as one of my faves(with 1 photo and a commemorative poster from Del Mar of him on the living room walls...glad to see I'm not alone there!) and he is certainly the best I have seen. After his Mass Cap win Dave Johnson said to "let this racehorse burn in your memory" because we won't see another one like him and he does burn in my memory. Glad to see he's still burning with all of you too.

13 Dec 2008 7:46 PM
fanofallthree

Marilyn, thanks for heads up about Steve Byk not liking CIGAR.  I never knew this.  I'll have to bust his chops about it the next time I see him in TOGA.  It's truly amazing the strong likes and dislikes people form about horses.  

13 Dec 2008 10:35 PM

Recent Posts

Recommended

Video

Social Media

More Blogs

Archives