At the post-position draw on Wednesday, trainer Richard Mandella was asked how he would feel if one of his horses beat Cigar.
“I’d feel terrible--for about a second,” Mandella said.
Mandella amended that time of remorse to half a second Saturday, after his Dare And Go, at 39-1, won the $1-million Pacific Classic at Del Mar by 3 1/2 lengths, ending Cigar’s winning streak at 16 races and costing him the chance to move by Citation, who put 16 wins together almost half a century ago.
Cigar, caught in a speed duel through the first mile with Mandella’s other horse, Siphon, tried to run with his rival for about 25 yards when Dare And Go caught him in mid-stretch, but there was no coming back for the 1995 horse of the year this time. He had been able to lose the lead and rally against Mandella’s Soul Of The Matter in Dubai in March, but that was not after having run the opening mile in 1:33 3/5, which is only two-fifths of a second slower than the Del Mar track record.
A record Del Mar crowd of 44,181 was stunned by the outcome. Most of them had come not to make any money betting on Cigar--who at 1-10 would have paid $2.20 for $2 had he won--but for a front-row seat to history. Instead they left crestfallen and disappointed. Cigar finished second, seven lengths ahead of Siphon, and the rest of the order of finish was Dramatic Gold, Luthier Fever and Tinners Way, the winner of the two previous Pacific Classics, who was vanned off the track with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
At the top of Saturday’s disappointment meter was Bill Mott, the trainer who had shepherded Cigar through a streak that had taken them to nine tracks.
“There’s an old saying that pace makes the race, and that had something to do with the outcome today,” Mott said. “You can go only so fast and then have enough to finish, and we became a victim of that today.”
Mott did not blame Jerry Bailey, who had ridden Cigar for all but the first win in the streak. Five weeks ago, the trainer and jockey had come to California with Geri and finished second in the Hollywood Gold Cup as Siphon, untethered on the lead, won wire to wire.
“Maybe I let my horse get into the race too much,” Bailey said Saturday. “But we knew that Siphon could be dangerous on the lead. And I needed to get position, because the outside horse [Dramatic Gold] might have boxed us in otherwise.”
Down the backstretch, Siphon had the rail and the lead, with Cigar close behind and Dramatic Gold pressuring him from the outside.
“Being lapped by that horse on the outside forced the issue,” Mott said. “Dramatic Gold made Siphon and Cigar run too damn fast. That was the deciding factor. Our plan was to make sure Siphon didn’t get away, and then take a chance that nobody could catch us late.
“Now that I look back, this was an error in judgment on my part. We didn’t intend to go the first mile in 1:33. But I can’t cast the blame. I don’t think any less of the horse or Jerry. I’m as responsible as anybody for the way the race played out.”
Dare And Go, ridden by Alex Solis for his owners and breeders, Frenchmen Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, paid $81.20 to win and became a millionaire by earning $600,000 for his seventh win in 20 starts. The 5-year-old son of Alydar and Partygoer, a Secretariat mare, had won only one of his last six starts and hadn’t won an important race since the Strub Stakes at Santa Anita in February 1995. He had missed two races earlier this year--the Santa Anita Handicap and the Dubai World Cup--because of ankle injuries.
Dare And Go’s time for 1 1/4 miles was 1:59 4/5. All six horses carried 124 pounds.
“He’s always been a capable horse,” Mandella said of Dare And Go. “It’s just been hard to get the unsoundness out of him. My hat’s still off to Mott for accepting all the challenges. The only way you don’t get a horse beat is by not running him.”
Was this the biggest victory for Solis? “This horse’s exercise rider [Francisco Alvarado] lives with us down here, and he was telling us how well this horse was doing,” Solis said. “This is one of the biggest feelings I’ve ever had in my life.”
While Siphon, Cigar and Dramatic Gold were battling up front, Solis had gotten Dare And Go to relax, and they were comfortably settled in fourth place, saving ground. Cigar edged past Siphon at the top of the stretch, while Solis was bringing Dare And Go to the outside.
“At the three-eighths, I told myself to be patient,” Solis said. “When I moved a bit on my horse, he gave me a big kick. At the three-sixteenths pole, he was flying. I was riding him hard. I didn’t want to mess around with a horse like Cigar. I wanted to open up, in case Cigar might try to come back to him. But my horse was so strong.”
Siphon, the 7-1 second choice, was ridden by David Flores.
“He tried all the way,” Flores said. “Cigar never let me go. He was pressuring me all the way. I couldn’t ride the race the way I wanted to. That’s just the way it worked out. I thought that if he went with me, we’d both be in trouble. He didn’t let me win today, but he didn’t win because of it.”
Mandella had planned to run three horses Saturday, but Soul Of The Matter suffered a career-ending foot bruise while working out Wednesday morning.
“That’s life in the big city,” Mandella said. “I’m fortunate to have so many good horses that we could still run these two. Dare And Go had been training good, and for a while I was thinking of taking the easy way and putting him in a little stake. But I called [the owners], and we talked about how good he was doing, and there didn’t seem to be much gain in doing that. Anybody who’d seen him here in the last couple of weeks could see him bloom and get better and better every day.”
For Cigar, there are other races back East. Mott said the options before the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Woodbine in October are the Woodward and/or the Jockey Club Gold Cup, both at Belmont Park.
“The streak was as good as winning a Triple Crown race, or perhaps sweeping the Triple Crown,” Mott said. “There are a million ways to get beat and only one way to win. This is still a great horse, and I hope he continues to be a drawing card. Today was as much a human error as it was a flaw in the horse’s ability. I still won’t hesitate to rank Cigar up there with the best of them.”
Horse Racing Notes
The last horses to outrun Cigar were Unaccounted For and Same Old Wish, who ran 1-2 while he finished third at Belmont Park on Oct. 7, 1994. That was Cigar’s last race on grass. The Pacific Classic was Cigar’s second loss in 19 starts on dirt and was his first defeat on the main track since Feb. 21, 1993, when he ran seventh in his first start at Santa Anita. . . . The $200,000 second-place purse pushed Cigar over the $9-million mark. . . . For finishing fifth, 44 1/2 lengths behind Dare And Go, Luthier Fever earned $500,000--more than any horse in the field except the winner. Luthier Fever collected the bonus for being the only horse to run in the Santa Anita Handicap-Hollywood Gold Cup-Pacific Classic bonus series. . . . Trainer Bobby Frankel’s four-race winning streak in the Pacific Classic ended with Tinners Way’s defeat. “Eddie [Delahoussaye] told me that when the horse started to [change lead feet] at about the five-sixteenths, he bobbled a little and took a bad step,” Frankel said. The injury is not life-threatening. . . . Alex Solis didn’t ride Dare And Go in his previous race, a second-place finish behind Cleante in the Bel Air Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 14, because he was at Delaware Park, winning a stake on Urbane. . . . Early in the day, a man was asked to leave an elevator because he was smoking a cigar. . . . “I’m glad that we didn’t have a horse close to running in the Pacific Classic,” Jenny Craig said before the race. “It’s a no-win situation. You’re not going to be very popular if you beat Cigar.” . . . The handle, counting off-track, was $20.8 million. The old record was $15.5 million. More than $1.1 million was bet to win on Cigar.
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Pacific Classic at a Glance
Fin. Horse Jockey Lengths Behind Odds to $1 1.Dare And Go Solis -- $39.60 2.Cigar Bailey 3 1/2 $0.10 3.Siphon Flores 10 1/2 $6.80 4.Dramatic Gold Nakatani 18 1/2 $25.20 5.Luthier Fever Blanc 44 1/2 $78.10 6.Tinners Way Delahoussaye DNF $11.30