11/26/2015 9:50AM

Jerardi: Cigar Mile a battle of triple-digit Beyers

Barbara D. Livingston
Private Zone goes for his 11th straight triple-digit Beyer on dirt in the Cigar Mile on Saturday.

You can review hundreds of races and not see many quite like the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, with a horse having five consecutive triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures, another with eight straight, and, finally, the obvious favorite and defending champ with 10 straight if you throw out a grass experiment that got him ready for the real races.

Red Vine was a decent grass horse who ended up on dirt when a race was taken off the grass almost a year ago. He won that day and has been on dirt ever since, moving up in class and firing every time, with Beyers of 106, 105, 100, 105, and 103 when third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. This would be a horse to love in many stakes races, just not this stakes race.

Tonalist was actually beaten 12 1/2 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Classic by American Pharoah (the legendary 120 Beyer in his finale) and still managed to get a 101, his worst number since the 98 he got in the 2014 Travers. Prior to the Classic – where no horse running, few alive but retired, and not many dead were going to have any chance to beat American Pharoah – Tonalist had gone 106, 105, 111, 105, 107, 110, and 109. His lifetime best was the 111 in the Westchester Stakes at Belmont Park back on Kentucky Derby Day. As good and consistent as Tonalist is, I think he will have to run close to that 111 to win this Cigar Mile.

Private Zone has been on a triple-digit run for two years, going all the way back to the 101 he got when second to Flat Out in the 2013 Cigar Mile. After running a decent fourth in the Turf Monster at Parx last year, all Private Zone has done is go 106, 100, 110, 103, 100, 101, 105, 105, and 106 when second in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint to Runhappy.

And, yes, that 110 came in last year’s Cigar Mile, where Private Zone ran the field off their feet from the start. This is a much stronger race, but the setup looks identical. Private Zone is almost always lone speed in sprints, so he is certainly lone speed in this spot. Tonalist is talented enough to run him down. So is Red Vine if Private Zone is less than his best. Not quite sure what to make of Matrooh and that 105 he got in the Bold Ruler. It was kind of a one-off, but his trainer, Chad Brown, is even hotter than usual, so I can’t say that is not the new normal for Matrooh.

Still, the most likely scenario is for Private Zone to do exactly what he did in this race last year – go to the front, set very fast fractions, take the run out of the chasers, and win again.

The Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct is a Beyer Speed Figure test. The top three finishers out of the Nashua Stakes are very solid. The winner, Mohaymen, got an 87 in winning his maiden and showed a big middle move to take control of the Nashua and get an 89. Flexibility tried hard the whole trip when second in the Nashua and got an 86. Sail Ahoy improved 12 points in his maiden win from his debut, going from a 61 to a 73. Then, he went up eight points to an 81 when fourth in the Champagne and then four points to an 85 when third in the Nashua, where he got started very late, as if more distance might work nicely.

And if you are worried about the Champagne figure because Greenpointcrusader did not fire in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, don’t be. Sunny Ridge came back to confirm it last Saturday when he got a 92 in the Delta Jackpot, losing to Exaggerator by a neck.

I am not quite sure how the betting will go, but I am going to try to beat all the Nashua horses with Gift Box. The colt got a 93 when he won his maiden Oct. 3. Could he have moved up on the slop that day? Possibly, but the figure was strongly confirmed when Matt King Coal, who was a nose behind Gift Box, came back to win his maiden by almost six lengths and get a 96. The third horse in that race, 18 lengths behind, was Cumberland River. He got a 61 then and a 78 in his next start.

This is a pretty straightforward play for true Beyer believers, especially if the players go for the top three from the Nashua. I have nothing bad to say about any of the Nashua three, but the confirmation of that 93 makes Gift Box a mandatory play.