2021 Cigar Mile Quick Sheet: Get to Know the Horses

The official last day of fall is Dec. 20. For many racing fans, however, the Cigar Mile Presented by NYRA Bets at Aqueduct on Dec. 4 marks the end of the autumn racing season. The one-mile contest is traditionally the final grade 1 race of the year in New York, and brings together some of the country’s top middle distance horses.

The race was first held in 1988, and has been contested every year since then, except for 1993. It was called the NYRA Mile until 1997, when it was renamed in honor of two-time Horse of the Year Cigar, who won it in 1994.

Other notable horses to win the Cigar Mile include Rubiano (1991), Congaree (2002, 2003), Discreet Cat (2006), Kodiak Kowboy (2009), Stay Thirsty (2012), Flat Out (2013), Tonalist (2015), and Maximum Security (2019).

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Read on for more information on this year’s Cigar Mile field.

1. Following Sea

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: Spendthrift Farm

Career record: 7 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 3 thirds

Career earnings: $693,020

Earnings per start: $99,003

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 117

Pedigree: Runhappy – Quick Flip, by Speightstown

Color: Bay

Age: 3

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This precocious son of champion sprinter Runhappy made waves in the spring. He broke his maiden impressively at Oaklawn Park and then followed that performance with a 6 ½-length win at Belmont Park in early June. After two defeats in Grade 1 company, he won the Grade 2 Vosburgh Stakes by 4 ¾ lengths in October. Most recently, he was third in the Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He’s stretching out a bit here from six furlongs to a mile, and he was a non-threatening third in his lone start at a mile or longer, the TVG.com Haskell Stakes. However, he has a high cruising speed and a running style that looks well-suited to a one-turn mile. He would be the 11th 3-year-old to win the Cigar Mile. Maximum Security was the most recent one to do so, in 2019. Todd Pletcher has won the Cigar Mile four times, more than any other trainer. One of Pletcher’s go-to jockeys, John Velazquez, is in the saddle. Based on the East Coast for his whole career, Velazquez will ride regularly in California for the first time this winter. He won the Cigar Mile with Left Bank in 2001 and Tonalist in 2015.

Bet Following Sea in the Cigar Mile Presented by NYRA Bets.

2. Plainsman

Jockey: Manny Franco

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owner: Shortleaf Stable

Career record: 26 starts – 8 wins – 6 seconds – 4 thirds

Career earnings: $753,207

Earnings per start: $28,970

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108

Pedigree: Flatter – S S Pinafore, by Street Sense

Color: Bay

Age: 6

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: No one in this year’s Cigar Mile field has won more stakes races this year than Plainsman. He’s won three stakes so far in 2021, although only one was of the graded variety. That one was the Grade 3 Ack Ack Stakes at Churchill Downs in early October, where he split horses late and got up for an exciting one-length win. In the Bold Ruler Stakes at Belmont Park last out, he got into some traffic trouble and was a well-beaten third. He’s very consistent and has a decent late closing kick, but his ceiling is not quite as high as some of the others in this field. He’ll hope to close late and finish somewhere in the superfecta at a decent price.

Bet Plainsman in the Cigar Mile Presented by NYRA Bets.

3. Americanrevolution

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owners: China Horse Club and WinStar Farm

Career record: 6 starts – 4 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $532,035

Earnings per start: $88,673

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 117

Pedigree: Constitution – Polly Freeze, by Super Saver

Color: Chestnut

Age: 3

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: One of the most promising New York-breds to come around in recent years, Americanrevolution has dominated in state-bred company this year. He’s won three New York-bred stakes this year by a combined 24 lengths. He made his first start against older horses in the Empire Classic at Belmont Park last out and wiped the floor with his competition to win by almost twelve lengths. In his lone start against graded stakes company, he closed ground to finish third in the Pennsylvania Derby behind Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon, beaten 6 ¾ lengths. He’s rapidly improved with every start and has the potential to win several graded stakes next year. This will be his class test.

Bet Americanrevolution in the Cigar Mile Presented by NYRA Bets.

4. Code of Honor

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Shug McGaughey

Owner: Will Farish

Career record: 19 starts – 7 wins – 5 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $2,951,320

Earnings per start: $155,333

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 120

Pedigree: Noble Mission – Reunited, by Dixie Union

Color: Chestnut

Age: 5

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Code of Honor is still looking to recapture his form from his 3-year-old season. He won four graded stakes races in 2019, including the Runhappy Travers Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and he was second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. This year, while he’s been competitive in graded stakes company, he hasn’t quite been the same horse. After returning from a long layoff in late August, he won the Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park as a heavy favorite but then was defeated in both the Woodward Stakes and the Hagyard Fayette Stakes. He’s likely to attract lots of money based on name value alone, and while he’s a serious contender in this field, he may get overbet. Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey won this race in 1996 with Gold Fever.

Bet Code of Honor in the Cigar Mile Presented by NYRA Bets.

5. Independence Hall

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer: Mike McCarthy

Owners: Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Robert Verratti, Kathleen Verratti, Twin Creeks Racing Stable and WinStar Farm

Career record: 13 starts – 5 wins – 2 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $874,000

Earnings per start: $57,231

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 110

Pedigree: Constitution – Kalahari Cat, by Cape Town

Color: Dark bay or brown

Age: 4

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After several near-misses in graded stakes company, Independence Hall broke through in a big way last out with a dominant 7 ¼-length win in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes at Keeneland. He was pressed on the pace all the way by Code of Honor but he shook off the challenge and won easily. From a speed figure point, that performance was not an outlier. The 107 figure he earned in that race is just his third-best mark of the year. As such, it’s reasonable to believe that he can replicate that effort Saturday. He’s going to be on the early pace and will try to take them gate-to-wire. Javier Castellano won the Cigar Mile in back-to-back years aboard Connect (2016) and Sharp Azteca (2017).

Bet Independence Hall in the Cigar Mile Presented by NYRA Bets.

6. Ginobili

Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke

Trainer: Richard Baltas

Owners: Slam Dunk Racing, Richard Baltas, Jerry McClanahan and Michael Nentwig

Career record: 14 starts – 3 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $449,825

Earnings per start: $32,130

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 113

Pedigree: Munnings – Find the Humor, by Sharp Humor

Color: Bay

Age: 4

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: California-based trainer Richard Baltas seldom sends horses to the East Coast, but he’ll race Ginobili Saturday as this 4-year-old seeks his first Grade 1 win. He won the seven-furlong Grade 2 Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 28 and enjoyed a good trip that day, rating off the pace and drawing away handily to win by 1 ¾ lengths. Last out, he raced in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and while he was no match for the impressive Life Is Good, he outfinished the others and got up for second. Historically, East Coast horses have dominated the Cigar Mile, and West Coast invaders are few and far between. The only horses based solely on the West Coast to win this race are Ibero in 1992, El Corredor in 2000, and Congaree in 2002 and 2003. Nonetheless, Ginobili is in career-best form and will pose a threat if he can bring his California form to Queens.

Bet Ginobili in the Cigar Mile Presented by NYRA Bets.

7. Olympiad

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Bill Mott

Owners: Grandview Equine, Cheyenne Stables and LNJ Foxwoods

Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $120,440

Earnings per start: $30,110

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 106

Pedigree: Speightstown – Tokyo Time, by Medaglia d’Oro

Color: Bay

Age: 3

Running style: Press the Pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Olympiad is by far the lightest-raced member of the Cigar Mile field. He’s started just four times, and never in a stakes race. After a sharp maiden-breaking score at Saratoga on Sept. 5, 2020, he went to the sidelines for almost a year. He returned with a second-place finish in a first-level allowance race at the Spa on Sept. 4, 2021, then won by a half-length at Keeneland on Oct. 14. Although he’s raced well and shown some promise he’s never faced a field nearly this tough. This Speightstown colt is going to have to run a career-best race to have a chance of beating the likes of Independence Hall, Following Sea, and others. Bill Mott has won this race three times: with Cigar in 1994, To Honor and Serve in 2011, and Flat Out in 2013.

Bet Olympiad in the Cigar Mile Presented by NYRA Bets.

8. Pipeline

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: Chad Brown

Owners: John Gunther and Eurowest Bloodstock Service

Career record: 5 starts – 1 win –1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $97,200

Earnings per start: $19,440

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 104

Pedigree: Speightstown – Vivo Per Lei, by Empire Maker

Color: Bay

Age: 3

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This is another ambitiously placed 3-year-old getting a major class test. Pipeline broke his maiden in his fourth career start, winning a seven-furlong maiden special weight by 3 ¼ lengths at Saratoga on Sept. 4. He earned a relatively middling Equibase Speed Figure of 99 in that race, several lengths slower than those earned by the major contenders he’ll face Saturday. In his most recent start, the Perryville Stakes at Keeneland, he briefly led in the stretch but was outkicked and finished third. He’s going to have to improve quite a bit to seriously contend in this race. Chad Brown has won the Cigar Mile twice, taking it in 2016 with Connect and 2018 with Patternrecognition. Jose Ortiz was aboard the latter horse three years ago.

Bet Pipeline in the Cigar Mile Presented by NYRA Bets.