His bad post position and the possibility of a wet track appear to be the only hopes the other 10 horses have when they face Cigar in the $3-million Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday at Belmont Park.
On an 11-race winning streak, including nine in a row this year, Cigar drew the No. 10 post for the Classic on Wednesday, when 84 horses were entered for the seven Breeders' Cup races worth $10 million. Belmont's linemaker must figure that the post position and the forecast for showers are of no matter. He has made Cigar the 3-5 favorite. Halling, the invader from England who's running on a pure dirt track for the first time, and Unaccounted For, the last horse to beat Cigar, are the co-second choices at 6-1.
Unaccounted For's victory, as Cigar finished third, came at Belmont on Oct. 7 last year and was the last time Cigar ran on grass. His dirt record is 12 victories in 13 starts.
Since that victory against Cigar, Unaccounted For has won only two of seven starts, but he was second, beaten by only a length, when Cigar won the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont three weeks ago. The track was listed as wet-fast that day, and Cigar's trainer, Bill Mott, thought his 5-year-old didn't appreciate the surface.
Jerry Bailey, who has won the Classic three of the last four years--with Concern, Arcangues and Black Tie Affair--has called Cigar the best horse he has ever ridden, and he's not using the outside post position as a pre-race excuse. After Mack Miller, the soon-to-be-retired Hall of Fame trainer, drew the numbered pills that determined the gate lineup, Bailey smiled at him and said: "At least I won't get in any trouble."
"The start of this race is on the turn, so of course post positions matter," Bailey said. "If you had asked me before the draw what kind of spot I preferred, I would have said anything from four to eight.
"This spot isn't insurmountable. Now we'll have the chance to find out just how good this horse is. At least it's better being out there than being buried on the inside. If the track's playing the way it has in the past, inside is the bad place to be. There's speed inside me [in L'Carriere, who drew the No. 8 post and is 20-1]. He should go on early, and that ought to give me room to move over some early. I still think we'll win. If this horse is in the gate, he's in a good position."
Belmont Park has the only 1 1/2-mile dirt track in the country, and this results in the 1 1/4-mile Classic starting on an angle at the beginning of the clubhouse turn. When Unbridled won the Classic here in 1990, he started from the outside post in a 14-horse field. Despite a slow start, and being 12th after three-quarters of a mile, he rallied from between horses to win by one length.
Since Unaccounted For's victory against Cigar, he has won only two of seven starts, but won the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga in August and made a strong late run against Cigar in the Gold Cup. Bailey needed to use his whip only once on Cigar, however. Mott does not list Unaccounted For when he's asked to name Saturday's dangerous horses. He points to Soul Of The Matter, winner of the Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita off a seven-week layoff, and Peaks And Valleys, one of the few survivors from a 3-year-old crop that has been largely depleted since the Kentucky Derby in May.
"They're both fresh horses and appear to be at the top of their game," Mott said.
Peaks And Valleys, who missed the Triple Crown grind, won the Meadowlands Cup in New Jersey on Oct. 6 and the Molson Export Million at Woodbine for his Canadian trainer, Jim Day, in September. He has been a steady colt, with five victories and two seconds in seven races this year. As a younger horse, he will carry 122 pounds, four less than Cigar.
Soul Of The Matter finished fourth in last year's Classic at Churchill Downs, even though trainer Richard Mandella had to nurse him into the race because of tender feet. The winner, Concern, has been a disappointment for his camp this year. He hasn't won since June, was third, 4 1/2 lengths behind Peaks And Valleys, in the Meadowlands race and is listed at 20-1 on the morning line.
In other developments at Wednesday's draw:
--Heavenly Prize and Inside Information, trainer Shug McGaughey's powerful entry in the $1-million Distaff, were installed as the 6-5 favorite. Serena's Song, who beat Heavenly Prize by three-quarters of a length in the Beldame at Belmont on Oct. 7, is the second choice at 8-5. McGaughey has labeled the Distaff as the most competitive race on the card.
--Ridgewood Pearl, a British filly who was beaten by six lengths in her last start, was made a surprising 4-1 favorite in the $1-million Mile. "She's not even favored on the English line," said Ron Anderson, the agent for jockey Gary Stevens. "The horse Gary rides [Fastness] is the favorite over there." Fastness is priced at 9-2 on the Belmont line.
--Trainer Wayne Lukas wound up with favorites in both of the 2-year-old races. He'll saddle Golden Attraction, who's 8-5 in the $1-million Juvenile Fillies, and Honour And Glory, who's 3-1 in the $1-million Juvenile. Lukas will run three horses in each race and his seventh starter is Serena's Song.
--The favorite's role in the $1-million Sprint went to Not Surprising, who is 3-1. The 5-year-old gelding is on a four-race winning streak.