11/22/2001 12:00AM

Affirmed Success back in Cigar


JAMAICA, N.Y. - It is becoming as much a Thanksgiving weekend tradition as leftover turkey and crowded malls: Affirmed Success, after disappointing in the Breeders' Cup, seeks redemption in the Cigar Mile.

Saturday, when Aqueduct hosts the 13th Cigar Mile - the last Grade 1 of the year in New York - Affirmed Success will be making his fourth consecutive appearance.

"I would have loved not to have run in the Cigar," trainer Richard Schosberg said. "Because it would mean we would have won the Breeders' Cup."

In this year's Cigar, worth $350,000, Affirmed Success will face familiar foes Peeping Tom and Left Bank - who both ran in last year's Cigar - as well as graded-stakes winners Red Bullet, Graeme Hall, Illusioned, and Volponi. Longshots Capsized and Ticket to Freedom complete the field.

The Cigar tops a nine-race card that includes a pair of Grade 2 races, the $200,000 Remsen for juvenile colts and the $200,000 Demoiselle for juvenile fillies.

Affirmed Success, a 7-year-old gelding, sandwiched a win in the 1999 Cigar Mile between a second-place finish in 1998 and a troubled third in 2000. His 1999 victory came after a disastrous 12th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Last month, Affirmed Success finished 11th in the BC Mile on turf, and Schosberg believes redemption can be had again as Affirmed Success moves back to the dirt. In 13 dirt races at seven furlongs or a mile, Affirmed Success has a 6-4-2 record.

"A mile is a different race," Schosberg said. "What you need is to be able to run with the pace and stay the last eighth of a mile. It's tough to win a mile race coming from way out of it. He's proven he can run with any pace and stick around."

Having run only four times this year, Affirmed Success is still relatively fresh. He did little running in the Mile and has trained well since, inspiring confidence in Schosberg.

"I think he's perfect," Schosberg said. "I don't think he's lost a step. His works have been fantastic, his attitude's great. It's probably the least amount of weight he's carried in the thing. They'll have to run to beat him."

Affirmed Success will carry 118 pounds from post 5 under Edgar Prado.

Those who think Affirmed Success may be past his prime will have several viable alternatives. Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out the uncoupled entry of Left Bank and Graeme Hall, and both have a chance. Left Bank is the 120-pound highweight under John Velazquez from post 6.

Two starts back, Left Bank defeated Squirtle Squirt and Delaware Township, winning the Grade 1 Forego. The six furlongs of the Sprint were too short for Left Bank, and the stretchout to a mile could help him get back to the winner's circle.

"I think Left Bank has proven he's capable of running with the best horses in the country from six furlongs to whatever [distance]," Pletcher said. "I think he's perfectly suited to the mile, he's got great tactical speed."

Graeme Hall seems to have regained the form that propelled him to victory in the Arkansas Derby and Jim Dandy last year. Since getting the summer off, he has won two straight starts, including a 6 1/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Stuyvesant.

Last year, Peeping Tom was second in the Cigar to El Corredor, a lightly raced 3-year-old. This year, the dangerous 3-year-old could be Illusioned, who enters the Cigar Mile off a track-record performance at Churchill Downs, winning the Ack Ack Stakes at 7 1/2 furlongs. Pat Day comes in from Kentucky to ride.

Red Bullet, the 2000 Preakness winner, won the Gotham at this track and distance as a 3-year-old. He has raced only twice this year, but seems recovered from a pulled muscle in his back, suffered in the Woodward at Belmont. Jorge Chavez, a two-time Cigar Mile winner, has the call.

Volponi is another dangerous 3-year-old. He comes off a victory in the Grade 2 Pegasus Handicap at The Meadowlands. Cutting back to a one-turn mile, however, may put him at a disadvantage. Still, jockey Shaun Bridgmohan saw fit to choose him over Peeping Tom.