Have Another Cigar

Because our first Cigar experience brought numerous and passionate comments, we’re going to light up another one.

To fully appreciate the fire that burned inside Cigar, we have to go back to when he was a mischievous foal at Country Life Farm in Maryland, where his dam, Solar Slew, had been sent to be bred to Corridor Key. It was there that the colt’s misadventures began. One morning, Ellen Pons, wife of farm co-owner Josh Pons, was leading out Solar Slew and the one-month-old Cigar. Ellen was almost six months pregnant, but felt it was safe enough leading out a mare and foal. While walking them to the paddock, however, the foal stepped in front of her, and before she knew it there was a tiny leg lashing back at her. The unthinkable had happened. Ellen was kicked just below her stomach. There was an initial feeling of panic, but fortunately, no damage was done.

After being sent to Allen Paulson’s Brookside Farm in Versailles, Ky., the colt became known as “The Hammer,” because of the way he’d get up on his hind legs and a strike out if anyone touched him on the forehead or around his ears. If there was trouble, he’d usually find it. One day, several deer found their way into his 15-acre paddock. Frightened by these strange intruders he took off and ran smack into the V-mesh fence, ripping it off its panels. When assistant farm manager Mac Carr showed up after receiving a frantic call from the foreman, he found the colt standing there with his chest torn open, almost to the bone. The wounds were stitched up, but the stitches rotted and didn’t hold, so they had to use hydrotherapy (water hosing) and a scarlet oil spray known as red coat that causes tissues to granulate from the inside out. The colt healed up well and matured into a professional athlete, ready to conquer the world.


One of my fondest memories of Cigar was the day he arrived at Belmont Park following his historic victory in the inaugural Dubai World Cup. He hadn’t felt a cool breeze in his face in four months, having been in Florida and then Dubai. Now he was back home, walking up Secretariat Avenue, passing rows of trees and grassy paddocks, and hearing the occasional crowing of a rooster and the chirping of sparrows, as a brisk April wind ruffled his mane.

Judging from the way he pulled assistant trainer Simon Bray and groom Seth Gregory while returning to his old home, Barn 25, after 36 hours in quarantine, there was no doubt he was happy to be back in familiar surroundings.

Although he had lost a little weight and a bit of shine to his coat, it didn’t seem as if the long trip to Dubai, the hot, humid days in the desert, and his gut-wrenching victory in the Dubai World Cup took too much out of him.

Leaving the quarantine barn, Cigar continually gnawed away on his lip chain. The farther he walked the more on the muscle he became, bouncing along on his toes and trying to prop on occasion. This was the first blast of cool air to hit him in months and he was loving every minute of it.

“Man, this horse is pumped; he’s really pulling on me,” Bray said.

As they turned down one of the horse paths, a van blocked the way and Bray and Gregory had to walk Cigar in circles until the van driver could be located. He finally emerged from a nearby barn, and as he got into his van, a truck pulled alongside. The driver of the truck opened the window and shouted to the van driver: “You gotta move that van for the mighty Ceeegar, the greatest horse of all time.”

When Cigar arrived at Bill Mott’s barn, he was reluctant to go in his stall, balking several times. That was the last place he wanted to be, but finally he gave in. “There you go, buddy, back in stall 3,” Bray said to him as he removed his lip chain and gave him a friendly whack on the rear end.

Once free, Cigar let it all out, rolling several times in the straw, grunting and squealing. After getting up and pawing at the ground, he charged the webbing and thrust his head out the stall door, scattering whoever was standing nearby.

As Bray and Gregory returned to the quarantine barn to get Cigar’s pony, Snowball, who had gained fame himself while in Dubai, Cigar stood at his stall door with his head up and ears cocked, staring out the barn window and up and down the shed with that familiar white eye.

“You got your favorite window and your favorite stall back,” said day watchman Jimmy Camic. “I’m just glad he’s back safe, thank God. I’ll sit here with a two-by-four if I have to, and God forbid if any s.o.b. gives me a hard time.”

Soon, Gregory’s parents and brother arrived at the barn to take their son back to a hero’s welcome in their hometown of Garrattsville, N.Y., 16 miles from Cooperstown. Gregory had accompanied Cigar to Dubai when the horse’s regular groom, Juan Campuzano, was unable to get his visa processed in time.

“Seth, the guys at the pharmacy all said to send their congratulations,” Gregory’s mother told him. “I was in there yesterday and they were so excited. They can’t wait to see you.”

“I don’t know why I’m such a hero,” Gregory said. “He did it all.”

But Cigar had a way of making heroes out of all those close to him.


Tom Durkin’s voice bounced off the walls in resounding fashion. “Cigar! Cigar makes his move and he sweeps to the lead with a dramatic rush…the invincible, the incomparable, the unbeatable Cigar.”

This historic call of the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic wasn’t being heard at a racetrack or a simulcasting facility or any place even remotely associated with racing. On this occasion, three months after the race, pant legs trembled, shirt buttons popped, and ties stiffened at the sound of Durkin’s unforgettable call. You see, the race was being shown in the men’s department at Sears in Lawrenceville, N.J.

Following the race, Cigar’s presence seemed to be everywhere – from department stores, helping to sell team apparel, to Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsman of the Year” issue, to GQ, to Cigar Aficionado magazine, to a full page ad by Macanudo Cigar Co. in the New York Times, which read: “From One Cigar to another. Macanudo salutes the winner of the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic on his 12th consecutive victory.” The cost of the ad: $58,000. 

The world loves perfection, and in 1995, Cigar was the epitome of perfection, as he traversed some 12 miles of racetrack real estate, traveling nearly 10,000 miles by van and plane, while visiting six racetracks in six different states. Whether on fast, wet-fast, or muddy tracks, all Cigar’s rivals saw of him were the black and gray streaks of his tail. Among those inhaling Cigar’s smoke were the winners of the 1995 Kentucky Derby, Belmont, Travers, Santa Anita Handicap, Pacific Classic, Whitney Handicap, and the Juddmonte International and Eclipse Stakes in England, as well as past winners of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Santa Anita Handicap, Pimlico Special, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Oaklawn Handicap.

And through it all, Bill Mott was the perfect host, granting interviews to anyone who asked and handling everything with class. While the entire Cigar experience and the 16-race winning streak would have stressed out  many trainers, Mott might as well have been sitting on a rocking chair back in Mobridge, South Dakota whittling away on a piece of hickory. If ever a horse and trainer fit each other it was Cigar and Mott.


Speaking of Mott and interviews, you have to remember that he is shy by nature and often feels uncomfortable in front of a camera or in a large group.  For as many years as he’s been a kingpin in New York, Mott is still pretty much a country boy from South Dakota, and on occasion will use a defense mechanism when in an awkward situation. That mechanism is to get the jump on people with a slight and harmless tinge of sarcasm to break any tensions that might exist. Such was the case when members of the British press converged on his barn one morning following Cigar’s final work before the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The Brits congregated outside the barn as Mott went about his chores. Even when there was a lull, with Mott was standing just a few feet away, they wouldn’t dare intrude out of force of habit. The British press does not have the type of relationship American journalists have with trainers. Some British trainers are very adept at putting the fear of God in the media.

When one of Mott’s final sets returned, and training was pretty much winding down, I walked over to Mott just to chat informally. Finally, the four or five British reporters who were there sheepishly entered the barn to join in the proceedings.

That’s when Mott turned to his defense mechanism. Instead of waiting for a question or any introductions, he said in a raised voice and in his best country bumpkin imitation, “Good morning, good morning. I’m here from South Dakota. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this race, either. He had a nice little five-furlong breeze. I asked the rider to go in about 1:01 and he went in 1:00 4/5. You don’t deal with times, but we sometimes work them against the clock just to see how fast they’ve gone. What I’m telling you is that we got the type of work we were looking for and I hope it was the right thing.”

Jerry Bailey was standing nearby and both of us could see that Mott was having a good time with the Brits.

When one of them asked about the length of Cigar’s tail and why Mott didn’t crop it like they do in England, he answered, “In fly season we like them to have a good fly swatter.”

Then came a question that Mott jumped all over before it was completed: “When he ran here a fortnight ago, was that the first time he ran on….”

“Now, tell me what a fortnight is,” Mott interrupted. “Is that a week and a half?”

When Mott excused himself to go out with the final set, the Brits, thoroughly entertained, huddled around and discussed which of Mott’s lines they liked the best. It was a wonderful moment, with two worlds colliding and everyone walking away with a smile on their face.

As an aftermath of the ’95 Classic, the following morning when Mott went in his office to check his phone messages, there was the familiar gruff voice of his old boss and mentor Jack Van Berg. “Billy Mott, this is your old buddy Jack Van Berg, I just wanted to call and congratulate you. I’m very proud of you; VERY proud of you. You did a helluva job.”

Later that morning, Jerry and Suzee Bailey stopped by Cigar’s stall with their then 3-year-old son Justin. “Say hi to Cigar,” Suzee said to Justin, who seemed more interested in seeing his friend Bill and being given a pony ride around the shedrow. Suzee said that when she and Jerry returned home after the race they found their house decorated with balloons and signs

But perhaps my favorite image and comment were provided by Adrian Beaumont of the International Racing Bureau. All week, the IRB and the British press were hailing the European phenom Halling, owned by Godolphin, as a potential superstar who could dethrone the mighty Cigar. The morning after the race, there was Beaumont walking around wearing a Cigar cap. 

“I haven’t been able to wear it all week with the Halling crew around,” Beaumont said. “Now that they’re gone I can finally put it on.”                                                     

Fast forward to the following year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. It was Cigar’s final race, and the script called for him to go out a winner. But a nose and a head separated him from the storybook ending. The sun had just begun to descend behind Woodbine’s clubhouse turn as Cigar walked off the track for the last time. Shafts of light beamed down on him from an amber sky, creating a setting that was meant for a triumphant farewell. But Cigar’s weary legs and cracked feet, that had carried him some 25,000 miles across the United Stakes and to Dubai, could not carry him those final few inches.

Back at the barn, Cigar stood facing the back of his stall. Allen and Madeliene Paulson stopped by for a final visit before heading off to dinner, but Mott remained. For several minutes, he stared almost hypnotically into Cigar’s stall. When he spoke, his voice couldn’t hide the emotions that were obviously swelling up inside him. This was no time to be dwelling on defeats or having any regrets that Cigar’s career did not end in triumph. The only images Mott was seeing as he stared into the stall were of cheering crowds and magnificent victories.

“There’s nothing I can say about Cigar that can tell you how I feel about him and the whole experience,” Mott said in a quiet monotone voice. There’s no reason that getting beat a short head would make me feel any differently about him. I’d be pretty damn greedy if I did or if I had any ill feelings about anything. When we decided to run him again this year I knew as a trainer that trying to have a repeat year was going to be tough task come Breeders’ Cup time. He just lost that little step, that little turn of foot, and that’s been the difference. Before, he could have overcome having to go five-wide. Today, he just couldn’t – he couldn’t overcome it.”

Just then, 82-year-old Georgia Ridder, owner of the victorious Alphabet Soup, came over to Mott, who congratulated her.

She replied, “Congratulations on the greatest horse of many years. It was just our luck today.”

“Well, you had a good day and I’m happy for you,” Mott said. “I hope you have many many more.”

So ended the remarkable career of Cigar. In “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” Ernest Hemingway wrote: “But did thee feel the earth move?”

Cigar’s greatness was felt as much as it was seen. Just ask anyone who was there when Cigar rocked the grandstands at Arlington Park, Suffolk Downs, and Belmont Park. Just ask anyone who was there when Cigar made the sands of Dubai shake. Just ask anyone who was there when Cigar jolted the hallowed walls of Madison Square Garden.

Although Cigar’s accomplishments and statistics speak of greatness, they are just one aspect of his legacy. He took the torch passed to him by Holy Bull and made thousands of new racing fans around the world. He made believers out of skeptics. He made poets and artists out of 7-year-olds and 70-year-olds. He made people cheer and he made people cry.

But most of all, he made the earth move.

View the Cigar Slide Show

Watch Video of Cigar at the Kentucky Horse Park



Leave a Comment:

needler in Virginia

What can I say???

"Greatness" is just a word, and one that is tossed around far too often these days. It seems everyone either has "greatness", has seen it, met it, or taken a photo of it. But Cigar? I'd call him "unique"... meaning one of a kind. That's the only word that comes to mind both when I saw him at the KHP trying to intimidate John Henry, and ANY of the times I saw him race.

I am so glad we can see him at almost any time we wish. Parents take your children, grandparents take your grandchildren. GO SEE CIGAR! It's not often you can find a one of a kind anything, but he's there.......waiting for you on Ironworks Pike. Go on .......indulge yourself with a visit; it's worth every second, and will be with you for the rest of your lives.

Cheers to you AGAIN, Steve, and thanks for these memories.

14 Dec 2008 9:06 PM

Thanks for the great memories - brought tears to my eyes : )

14 Dec 2008 9:06 PM

Once again, you've given me such a beautiful picture of a beloved horse.  When I get this raw emotion feeling because of a horse, it's hard for me to understand people who do not share my passion for these incredible animals.  I am so grateful to you for telling us the back ground stories of Cigar and his connections - it just makes me love him more.  Thank you very much, kind sir.

14 Dec 2008 9:21 PM

Hello Steve...What more can be said of an brilliant thorougbred whom indeed moved the earth under his pounding hooves when ever he appeared all portrayed by an indomitable wordsmith whom himself..moves the earth under him..That being Steve Haskin..Thank you always for your kind window and best regards always..Looking forward always to your next tale...Steve Stone..East Hanover..New Jersey

14 Dec 2008 10:39 PM

How lucky you are to have witnessed first-hand the life of one of the greatest horses, ever.

Thank you for sharing it with us.

14 Dec 2008 11:03 PM
The Deacon

I am pretty darn sure that the rest of your readers will be as stirred as I have been by this wonderful blog. Another beautiful reminder of how the love of the sport touched us all.

Then the jerk back to reality of what racing has now become, with races and purses being cut and canceled, and the current state of affairs, thank you Mr. Haskin for once again taking me back.

15 Dec 2008 1:55 AM

Steve.... another great article.  Thanks much for all the stories you've written over this past year.  Hope you have a great Christmas/New Year's....  looking forward to another year's worth of reading your stuff!!

15 Dec 2008 1:58 AM
A Canuck's Comment

Steve: You have done it again. We are glad that you chose to "light up" another Cigar for us. Your words have a way of making us feel that we are right there, especially with Bill Mott at Cigar's stall after his final race. Your words describing Cigar's parade at Madison Square Garden were so vivid that we could hear the crowd cheering and had no trouble visualizing "the invincible, the incomparable, the unbeatable Cigar” in the giant spotlight. We have visited Cigar at KHP and can't wait to see him again. A great racehorse and a great writer - champions both....and we thank you.

15 Dec 2008 4:59 AM

Thanks for sharing all your memories with us, Steve. Once again i felt i was just there at Bill Mott's barn standing with you.

15 Dec 2008 8:59 AM

I had the honor of meeting Cigar in person at the KY Horse Park.  I even gave him a few peppermints.  

Thank you for sharing this with us.  I so enjoy hearing about the persinality of the horse in addition to his accomplishments on the track.  

Wonderful blog, thank you.  

15 Dec 2008 9:28 AM
Kelly E.

Steve, I can't read your articles any more at work - they all think I'm crazy because I'm crying all the time!!!  (Thank you so much, though!)

My favorite memory of Cigar was after he was retired.  I insisted on visiting him at the KY Horse Farm after he was "retired" from an attempt at stud duty.  It was his first week there and I remember how pumped up he was.  He was whinnying to all the horses around him and running a hole through the wind around his small paddock.  He looked magnificent.  His groom gave him a bath later and I remember the absolute awe I felt as I stepped up to him with trembling hands and gave him a thank-you pat on his damp neck.  It always serves to humble me when I am reminded that these champions are - essentially - simply animals as much as they are tremendous athletes.

On a different note - does anyone know if they (insurance company?) are still testing Cigar once in a while to see if he suddenly has become fertile?

15 Dec 2008 10:48 AM


I thought you would appreciate this story:  I was at Santa Anita the day before the Breeders Cup having a sandwich in the Grandstand area and noticed Bill Mott sitting at the table next to me.  A man was asking Bill if he thought Curlin was going to blow by everybody in the Classic.  Bill said "Yeh, he's a good one." and then the guy left Bill to finish his meal.  Well, maybe it's been said before but, I couldn't resist saying to Bill "Curlin's close but,

no Cigar." At that comment I got a

"high five" from Cigar's trainer.

15 Dec 2008 10:49 AM

A grand tribute to one of the all time greats, Cigar, by a great thoroughbred racing historian.  Your articles on these outstanding equine atheletes are greatly appreciated Steve.  One hopes that the present owners and breeders will find a motivation that transcends the money/market aspect of racing to allow the full potential of their star performers to be displayed beyond their 3yo season.  Your articles could help in this cause if they are reading the blogs.  Keep up the good work Steve.

15 Dec 2008 11:01 AM

Extraordinary moments, extraordinary accounts.

Sure would like to see the video of Cigar at Madison Square Garden for his farewell. Do you know if the footage is available & where?

Thank you, Mr. Haskin.

15 Dec 2008 11:32 AM

 Steve such a great gift for writing you posess. Another story so wonderfully told. I can't wait till next year to visit Cigar once again at the H.P. This time I will be remembering your great stories about him that I never new of until your enlightenment. Thanks  so much.

15 Dec 2008 1:12 PM
Lance S

Incredible!  Thanks again for the great articles.  I only hope that someday soon we'll get another owner who feels being an ambassador for the sport is the most important thing to do.

Cigar ran everywhere against all comers, and all of us who experienced that are better for it.  There really is more to this sport than rushing horses off to stud after carefully planned 4 or 5 race campaigns.  In 1995 Cigar ran 10 times between February and November, all across the country.  Are we really to believe that this ability has been completely bred out of the thoroughbred in just 13 years?

15 Dec 2008 1:13 PM

I echo the Deacon.  If racing had more poets like you Steve and less money-changers it would not be in this crisis.  I've visited Cigar twice at the park, and I'm more enthused by a visit there-to see Cigar and Alysheba and Funny Cide-than a trip to inceasingly fan hostile and empty racetracks.  Please Steve, continue to keep our spirits up, and remind us of the greatness of the thoroughbred.

15 Dec 2008 2:07 PM

what about a word on Cigar's exercise rider?  We had a ball together riding for Joe Cantey,  then she started dating a guy named Tom and moved her tack to Mott's barn....

15 Dec 2008 2:10 PM

Thank you for bringing back the wonderful memories of a wonderful time. I watch alot of TVG and Simon Bray brings up his time with Cigar often, you can tell how much he was affected by his time with Cigar. I am so thankful to have gone on the ride with Cigar, even though it was just on TV for me. And I am envious of you Steve for living such a rich life with the horses that I love. Lucky duck!

15 Dec 2008 2:12 PM

A wonderful story about a wonderful champ.......but not the stuff from which movies are inspired like your saga of Canonero.

15 Dec 2008 2:44 PM
Backside Info

I have fond memories of Bobby Frankel calling attention to the illegal hind shoes (turndowns) in the paddock at Belmont on Breeders Cup day.  The same shoes worn by Shug's fillies that just ran 1 - 2 in the distaff.  They had the same blacksmith.  The paddock blacksmith and stewards all circled around Cigar's stall and said they were ok.  I personally saw Cigar walk into the test barn after the race with 4 shoes and he left the test barn with only 2.  His hind shoes were removed. Rumor was that one of the stewards kept them for a momento.

15 Dec 2008 2:54 PM
Steve Haskin

Once again, thank you all for your comments.

Constance, getting a high-five from Bill says it all I guess. He's not the type to ever say his horse was better than someone else's horse.

Shoshin, someone mentioned theyt saw the video on E-bay.

Nancy, are you referring to Fonda, who married Tom Albertrani? I came very close to writing about her and Tom, who left Bill to go to work for Godolphin the day after Cigar won the Classic, and then tried to beat him the next year in the Dubai World Cup.

15 Dec 2008 3:06 PM

I loved Cigar.  This was the horse that got me really into racing as a child.  My Breyer model of him still sits lovingly displayed in my room (play scuff marks and all).  I will never forget him and the thrills he gave this little girl.

15 Dec 2008 3:23 PM
Michelle Wingo


Thanks for the great articles on Cigar.  He was truly an incredible racehorse and definitely deserves to be up there with the great ones:)Having seen him at the Kentucky Horse Park around the first month I definitely agree that he has a presence about him and is defiantly one of the prettiest Thoroughbreds I have ever seen.

Yes, if I remember correctly the handlers were talking about having to move him because he was stalled next to John Henry and they kept RACING!!! each other in the paddock which was amazing to witness:)

I actually saw Cigar display his “hammer” skills when they were parading him around the ring.  It was during a thunderstorm (thunder/lightning the works!).  The girl handling him tried to adjust his halter or his forelock and he reared up and caught her on the back side, striking her pager or cell phone and ripping her pants pocket almost completely off.  She was okay and you could tell it wasn’t done in viciousness, he was just asserting himself and making sure she respected him.  But it was obvious you had to deal with him on his terms!

I will always remember that visit to Kentucky because I saw so many of the truly amazing horses that are no longer with us (Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Unbridled, Favorite Trick…).  It is my prayer that we will one day soon see another horse that inspires us the way Cigar did for a brief but spectacular time:)

15 Dec 2008 4:09 PM
Steve Haskin

No, Oliver, it wasn't the stuff of movies, but then there was only story like Canonero. Nothing I've seen compares to it.

Backside Info, it's funny how everyone is bringing up stories I decided to leave out. I was going to write about the shoes as well. At the barn after the race, Bill called me over and lifted Cigar's foot up to show me the shoe and couldnt understand what the fuss was all about. They were slightly bent down, but Bill said it was only a half-inch extension, not much of a turn down. I can see Frankel questioning it, because he is one trainer who doesnt like anyone to get an advantage on him. Jim Bayes, the blacksmith, stopped by the next morning and was still incesned over Frankel's claim. He admitted they werent conventional shoes, because Cigar wore a larger shoe than most horses, but were well within the rules. He called it a trailer.

That afternoon Frankel said he didnt want to make a big deal out of and didnt want to make enemies, but insisted the shoes were turn downs. The bottom line is, it wasnt a big deal and certainly didnt have any bearing on Cigar's performance. horses wera those all the time.

15 Dec 2008 4:10 PM
Steve Haskin

See what happens when you dont go back and proofread your stuff. Obviously, it should be incensed, and horses wore those all the time.

Sticking with that time period, Skip Away will be next.

15 Dec 2008 4:22 PM

It took me a while to warm to Cigar.  I flew down to see Holy Bull run in the Donn and barely noticed the horse (Cigar) that ended up winning that race.  I held a grudge for a while, but eventually was won over.  Interesting sidenote: Eddie Arcaro was holding court that weekend and I asked him who was "the Derby that got away".  Without hesitation he said "Nashua".

15 Dec 2008 7:22 PM

I had the great honor of hanging out with Cigar and feeding him mints when he was at Arlington for the Arlington Citation Challenge. I have pictures that I will treasure forever. He was so very special, and your article captures his amazing feats in fine fashion!

15 Dec 2008 7:42 PM
Pat in Florida


Your stories are so wonderful.  There was only one Cigar. Thank you for sharing with us.  I was there the day he lost at Del Mar and couldn't believe it.

15 Dec 2008 7:47 PM
The Deacon

For us real old timers Steve how about a blog Rex C. Ellsworth and Mesh Tenney. The owner and trainer of the great Swaps, Terrang and Candy Spots to name a few. There is a lot of information out there right now about saving our thoroughbreds from the slaughter horse and I think it would make for great reading for folks to know what really happened at the Ellsworth ranch and condition of the horses the authorities found them in. This once proud, incredible and imposing figure in horse racing history had run his once proud empire into the ground. I remember it like yesterday. Although this is not a happy story it is one that needs telling.

Thanks Steve for rekindling my memories.

15 Dec 2008 8:24 PM



15 Dec 2008 8:42 PM
Cigar's Mom

Re the thunderstorm incident.  That actually happened on 8/1/99. It was the final Sunday of Breyerfest.  There were huge crowds since Cigar had just arrived 3 months prior.  Normally shows are not done in that type of weather, but with about 800 people, there was no choice.  I actually had reached up just to put a hand on him to calm him down...I knew what was coming.  Lightning, thunder, and too many people in close proximity for him all at once. He went up, then turned midair and was trying to get close to me for comfort (he always has been a Momma's boy). He hit the KHP radio I had in my right back pocket.  The radio went flying and my pocket tore all the way down the right side.  He didn't touch me. He knew just how close to cut it.  He'd never intentionally hurt a person.  Getting bit while playing is another matter.  That said, in my 8 years with him, he never bit me. Grabbed my pants leg and tripped me though.

As to fertility testing, I can't speak for the last 23 months, but prior to Jan of 07, he was only tested twice.  He went for 8 days in November of 2000, and then for about 7 hours 2-3 years later in the winter/spring before show season started. Last time I spoke to Dr. McCarthy, he said nothing would ever change and he knew that prior to Cigar arriving at the KHP.

15 Dec 2008 11:24 PM

Thanks, Steve.  I love reading anything about my favorite retiree, CIGAR.  I wax eloquent, as usual.

16 Dec 2008 12:13 AM

I had seen CIGAR in his stall at Belmont in the fall of 1995.  I was in awe but not as much as when I went to see him at KHP in late August 2000.  I couldn't believe that I was going to get to touch this living legend.  After the HOC show, Tammy Siters brought out CIGAR.  I put my purse on the ground and I went to touch him but pulled back as I started to cry.  I just thought I'd upset the poor horse if I approached him blubbering like a baby.  He rolled the white of his eye to me, and in an instant he had his head in my purse, pulled out a roll of breath mints and had them down his gullet before Tammy could do a thing about it.  CIGAR looked at me with a "Get a grip." look, and we all burst all laughing.  I finally collected myself to get around to touching this icon.  

I've touched him and fed him many times since.  The hair on the back of my neck always stands at attention.  

I'll be back to see you this April, CIGAR.  Wishing my life away, but I can't wait.

16 Dec 2008 12:24 AM

I was fortunate enough to meet Cigar at KHP in 2006. Cigar has an amazing presence - you know you've met royalty when he looks at you, through you, and beyond you. He seems to enjoy holding court at the Hall of Champions and is a paparazzi's dream as he poses when he sees a camera and hears the shutters snapping. I particularly enjoy that he takes us in on his own terms. He's The King - a "Sinatra" - he does it His way. It seems fitting that he will not be "used" as a stud. It is as it should be, the one and only, the great Cigar will never be duplicated in any sense of the word. It is a privilege to have seen him run, to have felt his breath on my hand, and know that I have seen greatness. But most importantly, we can all have the experience right now at KHP. Go see a royal american - the incomparable, invincible Cigar!

16 Dec 2008 2:48 AM
Pam R

Thank-you for your wonderful stories about Cigar.  I have a video of the 1995 Breeder's Cup, and can't tell you how many times I have watched it.    I get chills every time I watch Cigar run and hear Tom Durkin's great call during the race.  I also have the Cigar Breyer and a book about him.  I have not seen him yet at the KHP, but hope to soon.  What he was able to do was truly amazing.  Many horses today run in their whole career, half the races he won in a row.  Racing won't see another like him for awhile.  Curlin came close, but I would've needed to see him run a little longer before calling him as great as Cigar.

16 Dec 2008 9:54 AM

Your articles always make me cry...I get chills every time I watch the '95 Breeder's Cup and see him turn for home...I saw him at Woodbine and even in the post parade I knew he wouldn't win that day, he just had such a weary look about him but the white around his eye gave him such a wise look at the same time....Even after his loss the crowd still gave him a standing ovation when he came back

by, I remember being crushed by the crowd as we all surged towards the rail trying to get our last glimpse of him...and the kindness of Jerry Bailey who galloped him out close to the rail so our last glimpse would be as close to him as possible and even took him by the crowd one more time to give us one last extra peek...

16 Dec 2008 10:41 AM

I think the thing that people tend to forget about this great horse is that he was bred for turf, not dirt, and he never really showed any talent on the grass. His ability on dirt, of course, is well known.  Can't think of any other examples like this.  I'm sure there are some.  Maybe some of the readers can help me out?

16 Dec 2008 11:27 AM

Thank you so much again Mr. Haskin.

With tears in my eyes I read about the great Cigar.  I only wish that I had been a fan at the time and could have seen him race. Don't know why it took me so long to find my way to this great sport or loving the horses.  I am so glad that Barbaro brought me into this sport and have learned so much from reading all of your  your articles and the comments that follow.  

I hope to one day visit with Cigar and all of the horses at the KHP.

Thanks again  -

16 Dec 2008 12:54 PM

I was a big Holy Bull fan so when he broke down in the Donn I didn't really care who had won but later on I couldn't get enough of Cigar. His trip around the country and the world while keeping his win streak intact was something we will probably never see again. I give sooo much credit to the late Alan Paulson for sending Cigar to so many tracks so that all his fans could go and see him. I will never forget watching his farewell appearance at Madison Square Garden-I think the only dry eye in the house was Cigar's.

As someone above said-if you haven't been to the KHP to visit him-you must go. You will be sooo glad that you did. Bring a camera and take lots of pics than select the best for a good wall hanger.

Thanks as always, Steve for a wonderful story on Cigar-you are just the best. Can't wait to read about Skippy-another fast forgotten horse since he hasn't had much success at stud. Also a very Merry Xmas to you and your family.

16 Dec 2008 1:32 PM

These stories are so awesome to hear. Please keep them coming. It's amazing to hear how Cigar touched his connections. Sometimes people get so caught up in the business that you never hear much about the ones who actually love the horses.

I will be making my first trip to the KHP this spring to see him. Do they let everyone feed him peppermints? That would probably make my year. I love watching his races on youtube. Still brings tears to my eyes. What a champion!

16 Dec 2008 1:48 PM
Fred Montreal

I do not know where you find the time to write all these stories but we are all glad that you do.  I enjoyed the comment on Curlin 'Close, but no Cigar'. In a recent conversation with a friend, I mentioned Cigar's sterility and he came back with a pretty good one too - 'As Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar'.

16 Dec 2008 3:15 PM
Abbie Knowles

Seattle Slew, Cigar, A P Indy, Pulpit, Tapit, Vindication,Slew City Slew, Leestown, Golden Missile,

"Funny", Slewacide et al rule OK!!!!!

16 Dec 2008 4:58 PM

Tell your readers to contact DIANE11820022@YAHOO.COM if they want the entire televised CIGAR MADISON SQUARE GARDEN FAREWELL broadcast...also has many other CIGAR documentaries and race compilations.

16 Dec 2008 10:25 PM
The Regular Guy

This marvelous piece of writing just proves Haskin is one of the best of our time. His eye for detail and appreciation of racing history is presented in such a wonderful manner. He is one of the last beat writers of our sport and needs to be appreciated for his hard work.

16 Dec 2008 10:41 PM


  I know that Cigar and Invasor are two of your all-time favorite horses and are  1,2 on my favorite list.  In a race at 1 1/4 with a fair pace what does your gut tell you would have won???


16 Dec 2008 11:18 PM

I was fortunate enough to be at Woodbine in 1996 to see Cigar run in his last race.  Watching him in the paddock was unbelieveable - he stopped & watched himself on the big teletron in the paddock several times.  I've never seen a horse who KNEW he was that geat before or since. It was a moment I will never forget. Now at the KHP, he does a similar pose when he knows the camera is on him in his paddock - stops - gazes into the distance w/ the perfect regal pose.  I go to see him every year at the KHP & still in awe.  Tx Steve for all the stories.

17 Dec 2008 1:00 AM
Steve Haskin

Regular Guy, there's nothing regular about you to me :) Thanks so much.

Mike, I'd love to answer your question, but I try never to pit two horses of different generations or say who was the better horse. I'm not into that or Top 10 or Top 100 lists. Let's just say each horse was capable of beating the other. How's that for a dodge?

17 Dec 2008 9:12 AM
The Deacon

Hey Mike, I am not an expert but in my mind Cigar beats Invasor at any distance. He did a little more, ran against much better competition and he had Jerry Bailey to help him along. You would be hard pressed to find horses Invasor beat being at the caliber of Skip Away and Holy Bull ust to name two. I know Invasor beat Bernadini in the Classic but I do not think Bernadini was a great horse. Just my opinion........

Merry Christmas to all.

17 Dec 2008 12:38 PM
Blue Dawn

Thanks for another great entry, Steve!  I especially appreciate being more well-acquainted with Cigar's amazing people through your words.  Merry Christmas, and we're all looking forward to many more captivating stories in the coming year!

Kelly E.--"Cigar's Mom" reported the last times Cigar's fertility was tested as far as she knew--and he has indeed not been tested in the last two years, either.  I believe that Generali (the insurance company) understands that--without trying to sound condescending--his case is pretty much hopeless.  It's best to leave him be.

I don't want to sound like I'm advertising, but for those who would like to see more recent photos of Cigar in all his magnificence, a photographer who comes to the Horse Park often has captured many breathtaking shots.  A few of them are sold at the Park's gift shop, and you can see many more at


My favorite picture lately is of Cigar and Western Dreamer standing in their paddocks in the same pose, looking as if they're standing right beside each other.  They are both keeping a watchful eye on the happenings at the Park, as if they have been hired as security guards!  It's very cute.

Also check out a heart-stopping photo of Cigar rearing to his full height in his paddock.  You'll love these pictures!

17 Dec 2008 5:33 PM

I absolutely love all the people on this blog.  Just to know that there are others out there who feel so deeply about these horses and this sport is so comforting to me.  


There is nothing left to say about you that hasn't already been said. You have been blessed with the gift and the best job in the world. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for sharing your gift with us. I do have a suggestion. Perhaps this has been asked of you before but wouldn't it be great to have a book made compiled of all your great memories and stories like this one and all the other great trips down memory lane? No one can write like you or tell a story the way you can.  I would pay big bucks for a copy of it. Something I could place in my "thoroughbred" room and come back to time and time again and re-read all these great memories and share them with those in my life that don't quite understand my addiction to these horses. I have been printing out your blogs which is good to, but a book...... now that would be great!

18 Dec 2008 11:08 AM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, Karen. I appreciate your comments and your request. For now, my book writing days are over. If I do write one it would be a children's book, perhaps on Canonero, but that is still in the talking stage with several parties. After six books, it's become a chore to write full-length books. If they want to publish any compilations that's fine with me. I'm enjoying writing the blogs and showing racing the way it used to be to young racing fans and also stirring the memories of those who were around to witness those horses and races. I've got Skip Away coming and then we'll head into the new year.

18 Dec 2008 5:18 PM

lm with you shaban l liked holy bull better and held a grudge to,still do to this day , rewind the time ,finish the race and holy bull wins spotting him ten pounds.There goes the legend of the great cigar!

19 Dec 2008 12:21 AM

I guess I should use my correct posting name when I post. I forgot the 2 in the last one.

Steve, I bet writing full books can be exasperating.  But with all the great blogs you have written there has got to be a way to compile them into one great walk down memory lane. Any Publishers out there???? Could be worth their time.

19 Dec 2008 1:36 PM



21 Dec 2008 1:00 PM
Karen in Texas

In 1995 we flew to New York to see Cigar, Serena's Song and many others in that Breeders' Cup. What was really interesting about Cigar was that he entered the saddling paddock quietly and with his head down. As he was being saddled, his head came up and his ears forward. By the time Jerry started him into the tunnel, he was "alive" with anticipation and was "dancing". Once on the track, he began to buck slightly, and there are many pictures of those few moments...My husband managed to capture this sequence on film. I still get out those pictures and remember that weekend. The atmosphere was just electrified!

21 Dec 2008 4:41 PM

If Cigar and Curlin's winnings were both converted into present day dollars, Cigar would still be the alltime money winner, I believe.

08 Jul 2009 4:23 PM

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