Flat Out rebounded from a clunker in the Breeders' Cup Classic to win the Cigar Mile (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)
The $753,000 Cigar Mile this past weekend offered one of the year’s more perplexing tests for handicappers.
It featured 10 horses, two of them coming off Breeders’ Cup wins, and six of them owning Grade 1 wins.
It also had six horses lumped in between odds of 3-1 and 6-1 in the morning line.
From that classy but muddled mix, it was Flat Out who won the Grade 1 stakes by a length and a quarter at 6-1 odds and paid $15 in what will probably be the 7-year-old’s final race.
As a handicapping exercise, let’s look back at the Cigar Mile and try to explain what the past performances said about the key horses in the race:
Flat Out: He was coming off a clunker in the Breeders’ Cup Classic when he finished eighth. Before that he was third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont, but beaten by 8 ½ lengths in a Grade 1 stakes he had won the two previous years. Perhaps the tank was nearing empty after a long and successful career, but if there was a place for redemption, the Cigar Mile loomed the right spot. The Breeders’ Cup race at Santa Anita had to be excused because Flat Out has done his best racing in New York. The Cigar Mile may have been his first start at Aqueduct, but in his previous races in New York he had never finished worse than third. His record at a mile was also 5 starts, 2 wins, 1 second, 1 third and that third was in the Grade 1 Met Mile this past May when he had a troubled trip. As a 2-1 favorite he might have been a tossout, but gambling at 6-1 that he’d revert to top form in a return to his favorite circuit and a favored distance seemed a fair proposition.
Private Zone: A mile seemed beyond his scope as he had finished fifth in his lone try at the distance. He definitely didn’t jump out at anyone on form alone, but his 32-1 odds had to give someone a reason to pause for thought. After all, he was sent off at 3-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in his last start and before that he won the Grade 1 Vosburgh at 7-2 odds. Sure, he was iffy at a mile, but at those odds and the strong possibility that he might be in front at the top of the stretch, he was well worth the gamble in the exotics like the exacta, triple and superfecta.
PRIVATE ZONE (inside) WON HIS FIRST GRADE 1 IN THE VOSBURGH
Photo courtesy of Coglinese Photos/NYRA
Verrazano: On his best day, like the Haskell, Verrazano could have won this race by a decisive margin. But when Verrazano has to dig down against tough Grade 1 competition, he usually comes up short. While he figured to improve off a troubled fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, it seemed unlikely that he would get the perfect trip he thrives on from post nine in this field. He was the 7-2 second choice, which seemed fair value, and his third-place finish also seemed right for a highly talented horse with a knack for disappointing in a big spot.
Groupie Doll: She made it back-to-back wins in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint earlier in the month, which gave rise to the notion that she had returned to top form. A year earlier, she had followed up her BCFMS win with a nose loss in the Cigar Mile so her 5-1 odds seemed attractive. But an equally reasonable conclusion was that the Groupie Doll who won the 2012 BCFMS was not the same Groupie Doll who won this year’s edition. She won by 4 ½ lengths a year ago as a 3-5 favorite and by just a half-length this year at 3-1 odds. Her fourth place finish justified the belief that she has slipped a bit.
GROUPIE DOLL WAS COMING OFF A WIN IN THE BREEDERS' CUP FILLY AND MARE SPRINT
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Clearly Now: He was a sent off at 6-1 odds, but as a 3-year-old with nothing more than a Grade 3 win to his credit and seven furlongs serving as his longest dirt race, he offered little value at a price equal to Flat Out. He looked like a middle of the pack type in this field and wound up fifth.
Goldencents: He was the 3-1 favorite, which made sense for a horse coming off a Breeders’ Cup win, but betting against him seemed just as wise at that price. He might have won easily in front-running fashion in the BC Dirt Mile, but that was a two-turn race and he capitalized on a track at Santa Anita that gave a decided edge to early speed. He figured to have to work much harder for a victory at a one-turn mile on a much more honest surface against a quality field. As it turned out, he finished seventh, though he was bumped at the start, which might have played a role in a 6 ½-length loss.
Granted, an analysis before the race might have sparked different conclusions, but whether you won or lost on the Cigar Mile, the race provided handicappers with some valuable lessons that may pay off at a later date.