Betting on a Closer in the Cigar Mile

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

After spending the vast majority of its history as a Grade 1 race, the $500,000 Cigar Mile H. (G2) at Aqueduct has been reduced to Grade 2 status for its 2023 renewal.

The change is already having an impact. Saturday's running of the one-mile contest has drawn a lighter field than usual; there isn't a single Grade 1 winner among the dozen entrants.

There is, however, an abundance of speed in the Cigar Mile field. Let's break it down:

  • #1 Coastal Mission, a West Virginia-bred standout with 11 wins from 16 starts, has set the pace in five of his last nine starts and tracked the pace in the other four. Last time out, he wired the West Virginia Breeders' Classic by 5 3/4 lengths. Breaking from the rail in his first start on the New York circuit, Coastal Mission figures to come out running and vie for the lead.
  • #2 Everso Mischievous has pressed or tracked the pace from second place in each of his last four starts, including when battling to victory in the one-mile Forty Niner (G2) at Aqueduct last time out. He seems likely to flash speed from his inside draw.
  • #4 Cascais has set the pace in his last two starts, wiring a one-mile allowance at Aqueduct before finishing a close second in an allowance over the same track and distance.
  • #8 Offaly Cool regularly shows speed and enters off a gate-to-wire victory in the M.P. Ballezzi Appreciation Mile S. at Parx Racing.
  • #10 Accretive closed from fourth place to finish a close third in the Forty Niner, but ran one of his best races when setting the pace in the six-furlong Vosburgh (G2) two starts back, finishing second behind next-out Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Cody's Wish.
  • #11 Hoist the Gold employed pace-tracking tactics to win the six-furlong Phoenix (G2) during the Keeneland fall meet. He figures to be forwardly placed while stretching out over one mile, as was the case when he fought for early supremacy in the Metropolitan H. (G1) during the spring.
  • #12 Pipeline has raced in first or second place during the early stages of his last six starts, most recently carving out the pace in the Woodward (G2). His last victory (in a one-mile allowance at Aqueduct in April 2022) came in gate-to-wire fashion.

With so much speed in the entries, the Cigar Mile figures to unfold at a rapid pace. That should suit the stretch-running #3 Senor Buscador just fine.

Senor Buscador doesn't have any tactical speed, but he does have a big closing kick. He put it to good use when he caught a strong pace in the 1 1/16-mile San Diego H. (G2) at Del Mar during the summer, rallying from nearly a dozen lengths off the lead to beat future Awesome Again (G1) winner Slow Down Andy by 1 1/4 lengths.

Senor Buscador has spent 2023 competing in two-turn route races and exits a seventh-place finish in the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), where he closed ground from last place to finish only 5 1/4 lengths behind the victorious White Abarrio. But you know what? Senor Buscador might be as good or better competing around one turn.

The stats are straightforward: Senor Buscador boasts a 3-for-4 record racing around one turn, highlighted by a victory in the 2022 Ack Ack (G3) over one mile at Churchill Downs. His lone defeat around one turn came in the seven-furlong Pat O'Brien (G2) at Del Mar during the summer of 2022, and that was a deep race filled with graded stakes winners.

Senor Buscador bounced out of the Breeders' Cup Classic with a bullet five-furlong workout over the Belmont Park training track in 1:00 4/5, so even though he's run seven times this year, there's no reason to think Senor Buscador can't bring his A-game to Aqueduct. Sometimes cutting back to one turn is exactly what a stretch-running route racer needs to deliver a winning rally, so I'm confident Senor Buscador will relish the expected hot pace on Saturday and storm past the pacesetters to secure victory.

For second place, we'll try #5 Dr Ardito. The talented New York-bred gelding has won seven of 12 starts for trainer Chad Brown and was beaten only half a length when second in the Forty Niner last time out. Like Senor Buscador, Dr Adito figures to benefit from a hot pace in the Cigar Mile, opening the door for him to turn the tables on Forty Niner winner Everso Mischievous. The latter is improving by leaps and bounds, but faces a potentially tricky trip breaking from an inside post in this speed-packed field.


1st: Senor Buscador
2nd: Dr Ardito
3rd: Everso Mischievous

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Cigar Mile?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.

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