Updated on 09/15/2011 1:31PM

Left Bank leaves 'em behind in Cigar Mile

NYRA/Adam Coglianese
Left Bank wires the Cigar Mile as rider John Velazquez completes a triple play of graded stakes. Velazquez also won the Remsen and Demoiselle.

JAMAICA, N.Y. - Left Bank capped a breakthrough year for himself and a wonderful afternoon for his trainer, Todd Pletcher, and jockey, John Velazquez, by rolling to a 3 1/4-length, front-running victory in Saturday's $350,000 Cigar Mile* (click here for chart) at Aqueduct.

Graeme Hall, also trained by Pletcher, rallied to finish second, a head in front of Red Bullet. Volponi, Affirmed Success, Peeping Tom, Ticket to Freedom, and Capsized completed the order of finish.

Illusioned was pulled up in the stretch by jockey Pat Day and fractured both front sesamoids and also had a major displacement of the cannon bone in his right front leg. Although he was vanned off the track in an equine ambulance he was later euthanized.

The victory by Velazquez gave him a sweep of the three graded stakes on the card. He won the $200,000 Remsen aboard Saarland and the $200,000 Demoiselle aboard Smok'n Frolic. Smok'n Frolic is trained by Pletcher, who won three races on the card, with two seconds and one third from six starters.

It was the second Grade 1 win of the year for Left Bank, who also won the seven-furlong Vosburgh. In that race, he defeated Squirtle Squirt, who came back to win the Breeders' Cup Sprint, a six-furlong race in which Left Bank finished fifth.

The six furlongs of the Breeders' Cup were too short for Left Bank. The mile was just right.

In a race without much speed, Velazquez found himself in front right out of the gate. Affirmed Success, who stumbled at the start, soon joined Left Bank on the lead and the two raced heads apart through fractions of 23.47 seconds, 45.72, and 1:09.54. Turning for home, Velazquez threw a couple of crosses with his reins at Left Bank, who put away Affirmed Success and opened up 2 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole.

The final time of 1:33.35 was the third fastest Cigar Mile. Dispersal and Quiet American, who won this race in 1989 and 1990, respectively, share the stakes record of 1:32.80. Left Bank returned $6.90 as the favorite. Red Bullet was the second choice by $1 over Graeme Hall.

"I thought we'd be real close to the lead or on the lead depending on what Affirmed Success and Illusioned did," said Pletcher, who trains the colt for Michael Tabor. "The great thing about where we drew is both those horses were inside of us and Johnny could see how the race would unfold."

Velazquez said his plan was to let Left Bank place himself where he was comfortable and "when I asked him he responded," Velazquez said.

Pletcher was pleased with the performance of Graeme Hall, who came into the Cigar Mile off of a victory in the Grade 3 Stuyvesant on Breeders' Cup Day.

"It's a shame for Graeme Hall that Left Bank was in the race," Pletcher said. "He ran fast enough to win a lot of Cigar Miles."

Pletcher said Left Bank and Graeme Hall are both expected to remain in training next year.

for the Cigar Mile chart.*

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