03/11/2010 12:00AM

Cigar Man needs speed to chase


ARCADIA, Calif. - Last week, trainer Vladimir Cerin intended to run Cigar Man in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap. The plan was foiled when Cigar Man did not receive a high enough weight to gain a spot in the 14-horse field.

The consolation is a $56,000 allowance race over a mile on the main track at Santa Anita on Friday. Cigar Man is part of a field of five and is one of two horses in the field who won their last start.

"He seems like he's happy and improving," Cerin said. "He likes his job."

Owned by Russ Sarno and Ron Manzani, Cigar Man joined Cerin's stable last April and has since won 2 of 10 starts, including an optional claimer over a mile on Feb. 10. Cigar Man rallied from eighth in a field of 10 to win by 1 1/4 lengths. He was helped by a decent pace, which may not occur on Friday. With only five runners in Friday's race, Aggie Engineer is likely to set the pace.

Cerin thinks Cigar Man has a chance to win, under certain conditions.

"He can if there is enough speed in the race," he said. "You can't do anything different. If you keep him close to the front, he doesn't have the same kick in the last part."

Joel Rosario retains the mount.

Sir Al is the other runner who won his last start. Trained by William Morey at Golden Gate Fields, Sir Al won an optional claimer over a mile there on Jan. 23. In his last start in Southern California, Sir Al was 11th in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby on turf in November. He was second in the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby on turf last October.

Aggie Engineer was sixth in the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes on Jan. 24 over 1o1/4 miles on turf, his first start on that surface. Aggie Engineer finished 3 3/4 lengths behind Loup Breton, who returned to finish 11th in the Santa Anita Handicap as the 4-1 second choice.

"When he ran the other day on the grass, it was only in the last part that he gave it up," trainer Paddy Gallagher said of Aggie Engineer. "The horse that beat him was nearly the favorite in the Big Cap."

Gallagher considers Aggie Engineer a candidate for the stakes at Hollywood Park this spring.