The globetrotting Grade 1 winner Mendelssohn, Grade 2 Kelso victor Patternrecognition and emerging star Copper Town headline a talented field of eight for the 30th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap, presented by NYRA Bets, on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The lucrative Cigar Mile card, which also features the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen for 2-year-olds, the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle for 2-year-old fillies, and the Grade 3, $250,000 Go For Wand Handicap for older fillies and mares, is the signature event of the Aqueduct fall meet.
Carded as race nine with a local post time of 3:45 p.m., the Cigar Mile will be televised on a special edition of Aqueduct Live, presented by Claiborne Farm, airing on MSG+ from 3-4:30 p.m. ET. Saturday's Aqueduct Live, NYRA's final ‘Live' show of 2018, will also present coverage and analysis of the Remsen.
Mendelssohn, trained by Aidan O'Brien for owners Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith, has traveled the world, posting wins in Ireland, Dubai and the U.S., highlighted by his November 2017 victory in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar.
In March, the Scat Daddy colt, a half-brother to both four-time Eclipse Award-winning mare Beholder and leading sire Into Mischief, further demonstrated his class with an 18 1/2-length romp in the Group 2 UAE Derby at Meydan.
Following a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby, Mendelssohn made three starts in New York, finishing third in the Grade 3 Dwyer, second in the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers and third in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Last out in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic on November 3 at Churchill Downs, Mendelssohn set a swift pace in the 1 1/4-mile test and stayed on strong to finish fifth in a race won by Horse of the Year candidate Accelerate.
“We were delighted with his run in the Classic,” said O'Brien. “And we're very happy with his work since.”
Mendelssohn shipped into Belmont Park on Tuesday and once clearing quarantine will be stabled at Aqueduct as he looks for his first Grade 1 win on the dirt.
“We always thought a mile would not be a problem to him,” said O'Brien. “We have been very happy with the way he has developed from two to three; he has usually been a good breaker and a good strong traveler in his races.”
Ryan Moore, making his first appearance at Aqueduct, retains the mount aboard Mendelssohn who will leave from the inside post.
Trainer Chad Brown will saddle a pair of strong contenders in the Cigar Mile led by Grade 2 winner Patternrecognition and multiple Grade 3-winner Timeline.
Patternrecognition, owned by Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence, made his first graded start a winning one with a powerful front-running performance in the Grade 2 Kelso.
A $420,000 purchase as a 2-year-old, the Adios Charlie bay went unraced as a juvenile before posting a remarkably consistent sophomore campaign that included a pair of strong wins at Aqueduct highlighted by a November allowance score that earned a personal-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure. Lightly raced, Patternrecognition arrives at the Cigar Mile on a two-race win streak.
“It took him a while to develop, but he's turned into a nice horse,” said Brown. “He just has to keep moving forward. It's a tough race, but he's a nice horse and on his best day he's capable of being competitive in here. He does like Aqueduct and it's part of the reason we pointed to this race.”
Jose Ortiz, in search of his first Cigar Mile win, will pilot Patternrecognition from post eight.
Brown, who won the Cigar Mile in 2016 with Connect, will also saddle Woodford Racing's Timeline. A chestnut son of Hard Spun, Timeline has won five of 11 career starts, including Grade 3 scores in the Peter Pan and Pegasus as a 3-year-old.
A beaten favorite when fifth in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, Timeline closed out his sophomore season with a seventh-place effort in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby. The Cigar Mile will mark Timeline's sixth start of this campaign, which is highlighted by an allowance win in June at Belmont.
“He's had a couple of minor setbacks here and there, so we haven't raced him as much as we would have liked to, but he seems to be training well right now,” said Brown. “At this stage of his career, it's a good test to see what we do going forward with him.”
Both horses worked four furlongs, separately, over the Belmont training track on Sunday in preparation for the Cigar Mile, with Timeline clocked in 49.91 seconds and Patternrecognition in 50.11.
“Both horses worked well and are coming into the race the way I would have hoped,” said Brown. “It's an important race, the Cigar Mile, and we're fortunate to have two horses to compete in it this year.”
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will pilot Timeline from post seven.
Copper Town, bred and co-owned by WinStar Farm in partnership with China Horse Club International, SF Racing, and Head of Plains Partners, arrives at the Cigar Mile in the midst of a three-race win streak for trainer Todd Pletcher.
The Speightstown bay, out of stakes-winner Dynazaper, hinted at potential stardom at third asking in October 2017 when streaking to a 6 1/4-length score in a 1 1/16-miles allowance at Belmont that earned a career-best 106 Beyer. Following a one-year layoff, Copper Town showed no rust when dusting a Keeneland optional claiming field on October 13 by five lengths.
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who has won the past two runnings of the Cigar Mile with Connect in 2016 and Sharp Azteca a year ago, will pilot Copper Town from post five.
Pat On the Back will carry local hopes for trainer Jeremiah Englehart and owners Harold Lerner, AWC Stables and Nehoc Stables. Bred in New York by Sugar Maple Farm, Pat On the Back boasts a career record of 6-4-4 from 21 career starts and $727,532 in purse earnings. The 4-year-old Congrats chestnut has won a pair of restricted stakes this year, taking the Saginaw in July and the Empire Classic last out.
“He's battled some foot issues all year long on both front feet, but this is probably the best he has been all year,” said Englehart. “My blacksmith, Brad Dewey, has done a real nice job keeping him together.”
Pat On the Back will step into Grade 1 company for the first time on Saturday, but the colt has kept good company in 2018 including a narrow nose loss to Diversify May 28 in the Commentator. Diversify exited that effort to win both the Grade 2 Suburban and Grade 1 Whitney.
“I thought he really ran a tremendous race to lose against Diversify the way he did,” said Englehart. “It showed he's more than just a horse that can race against New York-breds. This is the perfect time to give him an opportunity in the open ranks and see what he's made of.”
A versatile type with wins ranging in distance from six furlongs up to a mile and an eighth, Pat On the Back posted a quick four-panel breeze on Saturday in 49.95 seconds in preparation for the Cigar Mile.
“That work was good. It's what we wanted to see from him coming out of the Empire Classic. He's doing very well,” said Englehart. “I think the one-turn mile would be his ideal distance.
“Every race you win is pretty special, but to get a horse into a Grade 1 race is important,” added Englehart, who notched his first Grade 1 win in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies with Ria Antonia. “As a kid growing up, you dream of winning these types of races and once you win one, you want to win more of them.”
Dylan Davis will guide Pat On the Back from post three.
Sunny Ridge, a millionaire son of Holy Bull owned and bred by Dennis Drazin, will be looking for his first win at Aqueduct in his third appearance.
Trained by Jason Servis, the 5-year-old grey gelding, a determined second in the Kelso, has been a model of consistency with a record of 6-5-3 from 20 starts, including scores in the 2016 renewal of the Grade 3 Withers along with stakes victories in the 2015 Sapling; the Stymie and Jazil in 2017; and the State Dinner in July at Belmont.
Irad Ortiz, Jr., seeking his first Cigar Mile score, has the call aboard Sunny Ridge from post two.
Calumet Farm's True Timber, a 4-year-old son of Mineshaft trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, will be looking for his first stakes win in Saturday's Grade 1 test.
The improving bay colt has won three of six starts this season and earned a lofty 103 Beyer for a 1 1/4-length win in a seven-furlong optional claiming sprint on June 3 at Belmont. Last season, True Timber competed in a series of Grade 3 tests for sophomores, finishing third in the Jerome, second in the Withers and fifth in the Gotham.
Although yet to post a win beyond seven furlongs, the improving True Timber arrives at the Cigar Mile from a second-place run in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler. True Timber will leave from post six under Joe Bravo.
“He's very consistent, mostly at six and seven furlongs, but the mile should be fine. His style fits the race well. [Joe] Bravo rode him last time and got familiar with him. He's a nice horse,” said McLaughlin. “His last race was a little funny; he dropped back and then came running going seven furlongs. The mile shouldn't be a problem but he's probably a little better going shorter.
“He's had a lot of runs for us. We ran him in the Withers, Gotham, Wood Memorial – all those races – and he was placing in them,” added McLaughlin. “But he didn't want to go that far. He's really gotten to show what he can do this year going one turn.”
Long Lake Stable's Stan the Man, trained by John Terranova, owns a perfect in-the-money record at Aqueduct of 2-4-1 from seven attempts. The 4-year-old Broken Vow chestnut graduated here in March in a one-mile maiden event and arrives at Saturday's class test, his first in stakes company, on a two-race win streak. Eric Cancel has the call from post four.
First post on Saturday's 10-race card is 11:30 a.m. Gates will open to the public at 10:30 a.m.
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