Updated on 09/16/2011 9:48AM

Give that Congaree a Cigar!

Congaree and Jerry Bailey capture the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on Saturday at Aqueduct. The final time of 1:33.11 was close to the track record.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - You could hear trainer Bob Baffert's jaw drop from 3,000 miles away.

Baffert stayed behind in California while his 4-year-old Congaree destroyed a deep field by 5 1/2 lengths in Saturday's Grade 1, $350,000 at Aqueduct. Aldebaran, a perennial bridesmaid, finished second again, a neck in front of Crafty C.T.

Red Bullet, the surprising 3-1 favorite, finished a well-beaten seventh.

Congaree, who won the Wood Memorial here as a 3-year-old, stalked a hot pace, poked a head in front of Bonapaw approaching the five-sixteenths pole, and drew away from the field with four cracks of Jerry Bailey's left-handed whip. His final time of 1:33.11 was the third- fastest Cigar Mile run and was just .71 of a second off the track record.

"That was awesome, wasn't it?" Baffert said by phone. "It was great all around. A lot of people sort of jumped off his bandwagon. He's coming back the right way. I don't know if I ever had one go a mile like him. He [Bailey] should have gotten after him and he would have broken the track record."

For Bailey, it was his fourth victory in the 14 runnings of this race, known as the NYRA Mile before 1997. It was also Bailey's 64th stakes win of 2002, putting him three behind Mike Smith's record of 67 set in 1994. Bailey also pushed his 2002 earnings to $22,542,479, only $315,241 behind the single-season earnings record that he set in 2001.

"That was an El Corredor or Cigar-like performance," said Bailey, referring to two previous winners of this race that he rode.

Bonapaw, the Vosburgh winner, broke on top and set fractions of 22.48 seconds and 44.63 under Gerard Melancon. Bailey moved Congaree from third to second 4 1/2 furlongs out. Congaree came up alongside Bonapaw midway around the turn and pulled away in the stretch. He paid $11.

"I was very happy when he relaxed and was able to sit off a horse," Bailey said. "He's versatile. I used him a little bit on the turn to kind of put Crafty C.T. behind [Bonapaw], and then again turning for home to spurt away, so it's good when you can have a couple of gears like that."

The victory was the seventh in 14 career starts for Congaree, a son of Arazi who has earned $1,633,400 for Robert and Janice McNair's Stonerside Stable. Baffert said Congaree would run again next year and point for a race like the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont in May.

For the 11th time in 17 starts, Aldebaran finished second, catching Crafty C.T. late. Harlan's Holiday, Bonapaw, Windsor Castle, Red Bullet, and Griffinite completed the order of finish. Multiple Choice and Resolve were scratched.