11/29/2008 2:08PM

Cigar Day


Cigarmott The Cigar Mile at Aqueduct is the lone Grade 1 race around the country today, but there's something for everyone on today's stakes menu. Like juveniles? There's a quartet (Remsen, Demoiselle, Ky. Jockey Club, Golden Rod) of Grade 2 dirt stakes for 2-year-olds at Aqueduct and Churchill. Like grass? Hollywood's got the G3 Turf Express for sprinters and G3 Generous for 2-year-olds, while Churchill's got the ungraded Grand Canyon and Caressing for 2-year-olds. Like big wheels? It's Breeders' Crown night at The Meadowlands. Still hungry? Stay up until 1:20 a.m. ET for the Japan Cup.

Closer to home, this is the toniest day of the Aqueduct fall meeting but the three big stakes came up a mixed bag.

The Demoiselle looks like a virtual walkover for Sky Diva, the Frizette winner who was a strong third to Stardom Bound in the BC Juvenile Fillies. The only other stakes-winner is the longest shot in the field of six, 15-1 Stormy's Smile, who won a statebred stakes at 75-1 last time out. I'll stand alone with Sky Diva on 80 percent of my multirace bets, backing up with a dash of Springside and Bluegrass Princess, the two closers who could benefit from a lively pace among the three frontrunners drawn to the inside.

I've never seen a Remsen quite like today's: Not a single entrant has ever even run in a stakes race! No one's returning from the Nashua (which was unnecessarily boosted from a G3 to a G2 for next year), and you've got four maiden winners and three N1x winners -- and those N1x victories were at Delaware, Keeneland and Philadelphia, since they apparently can't make a N1x for 2-year-olds fill in New York anymore. Five of the seven entrants are making their third career start including logical favorite Old Fashioned, a 15-length winner at Delaware last out with a field-high 96 Beyer.

The Cigar Mile, however, is as tough a race to handicap as you'll find all year and perhaps the only Grade 1 stakes where the only previous G1 winners (Tale of Ekati and Visionnaire) are both 12-1 on the line. You've got sprinters like Kodiak Kowboy stretching out, grizzled routers like Wanderin Boy turning back,  big-figure winners like Bribon and Storm Play making their graded-stakes debuts, and Monterey Jazz coming in off a seven-month layoff. Nor are Harlem Rocker and Arson Squad impossible. Sheesh. Figure this one out, which I can't, and you'll get paid at a square price.

The Cigar is the last Grade 1 race in New York until the Wood Memorial/Carter card in April, and the inner track is scheduled to open Wednesday. It's that time of year: The 2nd at Aqueduct, a statebred MSW, just went to 7-1 Giant Ryan, giving trainer Bisnath Parboo what looks like his first victory as a trainer after a 0-for-60 run in 2008. Parboo had finished first in a race once, when Western Decision appeared to score by a head back on April 26 at Aqueduct, but was disqualified and placed second that day.

6:00 pm: Turned out to be far from a festive Holidayfest card at Aqueduct, as the popular 7-year-old Wanderin Boy had to be put down after breaking down during the Cigar Mile and the 2-year-old filly Springside is facing surgery after breaking a bone moments after winning the Demoiselle by 9 1/2 lengths.

In between, Old Fashioned won the Remsen by 7 1/4 lengths under a hold, stamping himself a leading classic prospect for 2009 for owner Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones, second in the last two Kentucky Derbies with Hard Spun and Eight Belles.

Springside came roaring from off a solid pace after 1-5 (0.35-1) Sky Diva couldn't get past frontrunner Ain't Love Grand and got leg-weary in upper stretch. Springside, a Canadian-based Awesome Again filly, blew past them and stopped the timer in 1:51.71 but appeared to take a bad step just past the wire.

Old Fashioned went right to the front in the Remsen, was all alone through a pokey 1:14.18 (vs.1:12.65 in the Demoiselle 30 minutes earlier), got one whack from Dominguez in midstretch and won in a laugher. The gray son of Unbridled's Song from the Meadowlake mare Collect Call sold for $800k as a yearling in 2007.

The Cigar Mile ended in controversy as Harlem Rocker reached the wire a nose to the good of Tale of Ekati after a mile in 1:35.01, but was disqualified and placed second for dropping over on the runner-up in the stretch. It wasn't a clear-cut takedown and horses have stayed up after committing greater sins. No question that Harlem Rocker did come over, but it's debatable whether he was clear of Tale of Ekati when he did.

As expected, the public was all over the place in the Cigar Mile, sending 6 of the 9 starters off at between 7-1 and 9.70-1 (Harlem Rocker, the longest shot in the field.) Monterey Jazz, who set the pace of 1:09.42, faded to sixth as the 3.10-1 favorite.

Earlier on the card, the Elusive Quality 2-year-old Quality Road made a splashy debuty, winning by 2 3/4 lengths in 1:16.11 for 6.5f, which is going to come up a fast number on a somewhat dull track. The two races preceding it, also for 2-year-old maidens (albeit statebreds and $75k maiden claimers) were timed in 1:11.86 and 1:11.74.

Wanderin Boy, a Stone Farm homebred by Seeking the Gold, won 9 of 25 starts and $1.2 million during five seasons of racing including the 2006 Ben Ali and Brooklyn. He also ran second to four different champions in Grade 1 races: to Invasor in the 2006 Pimlico Special, to Bernardini in the 2006 Jockey Club Gold Cup, to Lawyer Ron in the 2007 Whitney and to Curlin in the Jockey Club Gold Cup eight weeks ago.