03/12/2012 12:36PM

Kentucky Derby 2012: Under the Radar - Cigar Street


For many connections of lightly-raced 3-year-olds, the strains of “My Old Kentucky Home,” played during the Kentucky Derby post parade on the first Saturday in May, are nothing more than a siren song.

“Derby Fever” is contagious during the opening months of the racing season and many promising youngsters are rushed onto the Triple Crown trail before they are ready.

There’s probably a reason that it has been more than 130 years since we’ve seen a Kentucky Derby winner that was unraced as a juvenile. Perhaps the daunting 10 furlongs is too difficult a task for a runner lacking a solid foundation.

But, as we’ve seen in recent seasons, several Derby trends and jinxes have fallen by the wayside and some owners and trainers of inexperienced 3-year-olds soldier on, hoping that they are the ones to break Apollo’s curse.

Bodemeister, an “Under the Radar” mention earlier this winter, is now the poster boy for unraced juveniles of 2011 following a runner-up performance in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita for trainer Bob Baffert. Barring injury, he likely moves to the next round of prep races.

It is a recent maiden winner at Fair Grounds, however, who could be the next breakthrough 3-year-old. His pedigree is classy and familiar and he earned a big Beyer Speed Figure for his victory at 1 1/16 miles on March 10.

His name is Cigar Street.

Foaled in Kentucky on April 7, 2009, Cigar Street is by Street Sense, the Kentucky Derby and Travers winner at 10 furlongs. If you recall, Street Sense broke a hex of sorts when he became the first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner to prevail in the Derby. During his 13-race career, Street Sense triumphed at distances ranging from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles and received eight triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures, including a 111 for his close runner-up effort to Curlin in the Preakness. From his first crop of runners, now 3-year-olds of 2012, Street Sense has also sired graded winners Motor City (Iroquois Stakes) and Castaway (a division of the Southwest Stakes).

Cigar Street’s dam, the Deputy Minister mare Arcadiana, was unraced, but her value as a broodmare was always assured. Her older half-brother is the legendary Cigar. An 11-time Grade 1 winner with almost 10 million dollars in earnings, Cigar reeled off 16 consecutive victories from the fall of 1994 through the summer of 1996. Cigar took five Grade 1 events at the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic of 1995 and the 1996 Dubai World Cup.

Arcadiana is also a half-sister to Mulca, a multiple Grade 2 winner in Puerto Rico.

Cigar Street was purchased for $130,000 at the 2011 Keeneland juvenile auction after breezing a furlong in 10.4 seconds.

Sent to trainer Steve Margolis, perhaps best known for conditioning Cajun Beat to a Breeders’ Cup Sprint victory in 2003, Cigar Street made his career debut in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Fair Grounds on Feb. 3. Sent away the 2-1 betting choice in the 11-horse field, Cigar Street was bumped at the start and was taken up shortly thereafter. Cigar Street was three wide in last going into the turn, but started to rally while widest on the bend. He passed several runners in the stretch to finish fifth behind Bourbon Courage, a first-time starter who won the race with a 103 Beyer. The sixth-place runner, Macho Macho, returned to graduate at six furlongs with an 84.

Margolis stretched Cigar Street out in distance for start number 2, a maiden special weight at Fair Grounds on March 10 at 1 1/16 miles. This time, 9-5 favorite Cigar Street was away from the gate sweetly. Under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, Cigar Street set fractions of 24.28 and 48.17 seconds while under pressure from second-choice Revere. After six furlongs in 1:13.05, Cigar Street tucked Revere into bed and quickly opened up on the field. Following a couple of right-handed taps from Bridgmohan, Cigar Street streaked under the wire 13 3/4 lengths in front. His final time of 1:43.75 was good enough for a 99 Beyer Speed Figure.

Cigar Street certainly gives up tons of experience, not to mention all-important graded earnings, to his more highly-regarded peers at this point in time. In the near future, he will probably face tougher pace scenarios against much better competition and he still must prove that he can rate and finish from off the lead.

Still, he seems rather professional with his lead changes and the pedigree is certainly there for success in longer-distances races. If Cigar Street’s connections get the fever, they will have to leap into graded company for the colt’s next start. It’s a long way to go from a March maiden race in New Orleans to the Kentucky Derby, but Cigar Street’s winning performance certainly merits an “Under the Radar” nod.