In 11 years, only two horses--Slew O' Gold and Easy Goer, both of whom were beaten--have gone off as odds-on favorites in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Make way for Cigar, who will be odds-on, and probably the shortest favorite ever, when Belmont Park stages the 12th running of the Classic on Oct. 28.
This is the same Belmont Park that has been the venue for the last two of Cigar's nine consecutive victories this year. His is the best undefeated achievement for a major horse since Spectacular Bid went eight for eight in 1980.
Cigar's one-length victory over Unaccounted For in Saturday's $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup was also the 11th in a row for owner-breeder Allen Paulson's 5-year-old. Cigar, who has earned more than $3.5 million, hasn't lost a race since he finished third, well back of Unaccounted For, in an allowance race at Belmont Park a year ago. That was a grass race--and Cigar hasn't run on turf again.
"He's better than all the rest I've had," said Paulson, who has been buying and breeding important horses since 1982. "I've had a lot of good horses and I've watched a lot of good ones all these years, but I've never seen anything like him."
The showdown between Cigar and Thunder Gulch, the best of this year's 3-year-olds, was only good for pre-race blather.
Thunder Gulch, winner of the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes and the Travers, raced on the inside of Cigar for about a mile as they sat behind the front-running Star Standard, but he had nothing left for the stretch.
Cigar and his jockey, Jerry Bailey, were carried wide by Star Standard at the top of the stretch, as were Unaccounted For and jockey Pat Day. Star Standard finished third, Dernier Empereur was fourth and Thunder Gulch beat only Golden Larch and Jed Forest in the seven-horse field.
On a drying-out track listed as fast, Cigar ran 1 1/4 miles--same distance as the Breeders' Cup Classic--in 2:01 1/5 and paid $2.70.
Wayne Lukas, who trains Thunder Gulch, had better results in other races Saturday as Belmont Park ran six warm-ups for the seven-race, $10-million Breeders' Cup program in three weeks.
Lukas saddled Serena's Song, the 3-year-old filly, for a three-quarters-of-a-length win over heavily favored Heavenly Prize in the $250,000 Beldame, and he also won the $250,000 Frizette with Golden Attraction. Ridden by Gary Stevens, Serena's Song will have a rematch with Heavenly Prize in the Breeders' Cup Distaff and Golden Attraction will be a big favorite in the Juvenile Fillies.
In other Belmont races:
--Turk Passer, at 17-1, got a wire-to-wire ride from John Velasquez and beat Hernando by three-quarters of a length in the $500,000 Turf Classic. Celtic Arms was third and favored Awad finished seventh in the eight-horse field.
--Maria's Mon, under Robbie Davis, came from off the pace to win the $500,000 Champagne by 3 3/4 lengths over George Steinbrenner's Diligence. Favored Hennessy, the Lukas colt who had won four in a row, was a tired sixth.
--Mighty Forum, who has been ridden by 10 jockeys over nine tracks in his last 11 starts, came from last place under Eddie Delahoussaye to win the $200,000 Kelso Handicap, beating Fastness by 1 1/4 lengths. Mighty Forum, who paid $132 to win at Belmont, races for the Pasadena-based Team Valor Stables, and trainer Make Hennig said that British-bred would run in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Horse Racing Notes
After Concern ran a dull third Friday night in the Meadowlands Cup, trainer Dick Small said that it was unlikely that the 4-year-old colt will run in the Breeders' Cup Classic, a race he won last year. . . . Peaks And Valleys, winner of the Meadowlands race, is a probable for the Classic. . . . The Lukas outfit won the Valley View Breeders' Cup Stakes with Country Cat at Keeneland, where Julie Krone rode Dumaani to victory in the Keeneland Breeders' Cup Stakes. Donna Barton was aboard Country Cat.