11/28/2009 1:00AM

Kodiak Kowboy captures Cigar Mile

Kodiak Kowboy
Kodiak Kowboy strengthens his credentials for champion sprinter by winning his third Grade 1 stakes of the season in the Cigar Mile.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Kodiak Kowboy threw his hat in the ring to be considered champion sprinter by running down Bribon to win Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000

by three-quarters of a length at Aqueduct. It was a head back to Vineyard Haven in third.

The victory was the third Grade 1 of the year for Kodiak Kowboy and his fourth stakes win this season. He has twice defeated Fabulous Strike, considered by many to be the top dirt sprinter in North America.

"It's got to be thought about," said Tom Ludt, president of Vinery Stables, which owns Kodiak Kowboy along with Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farm. "I haven't really thought about who are all the candidates, but he's got to be definitely one of them. We beat Fabulous Strike twice; if we lose to him it'd be a shame because he's not even here."

Fabulous Strike wasn't here, but three other Grade 1 winners were. Vineyard Haven, who won the Grade 1 De Francis Memorial Dash in his last start, dueled with Driven by Success through a quarter in 23.69 seconds and a half-mile in 46.80. Bribon, the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap winner, raced outside of Kodiak Kowboy in the second flight.

Bribon, under Rajiv Maragh, got first run on Kodiak Kowboy and made the lead in midstretch. But Shaun Bridgmohan, who had to alter Kodiak Kowboy to the four-path in upper stretch, was able to wear down Bribon in the final 50 yards to get the victory. Kodiak Kowboy, a son of Posse trained by Steve Asmussen, covered the mile in 1:35.57 and returned $8.70 as the third choice.

"I had such a great trip," Bridgmohan said. "I was just very patient with him, and when I asked him, he responded like the professional he's always been."

Ludt said this was the final start for Kodiak Kowboy, who finished with 11 wins from 23 starts and earnings of $1,663,364. He won seven graded stakes in distances from six furlongs to a mile.

The coupled entry of Vineyard Haven and Pyro was made the even-money favorite. While appearing to be traveling comfortably under Alan Garcia despite dueling for the lead with Driven by Success, Vineyard Haven could not maintain his strong pace and weakened late.

"I like him to be there in front. That's the plan, but the horse, he's not the same as we saw the last two races." trainer Saeed bin Suroor said of Vineyard Haven, who will remain in training next year. "I talked to Alan and he said he was traveling very well, but as soon as he started to ask him there was nothing there; disappointed with the result."