Mind Control left a lasting impression Dec. 3 with a determined score in the Grade 1 $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap Presented by NYRA Bets at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The 6-year-old Mind Control eked out the win over Get Her Number and White Abarrio in a photo finish that put his sheer determination and heart on display in the final start of his career.
With Get Her Number making a bid from third on the outside and White Abarrio slipping through on the rail as the field turned for home, Mind Control battled between the two under John Velazquez and edged Get her Number by a head, with White Abarrio a half-length behind in third. The final time was 1:35.53 on a sloppy (sealed) track.
Winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes as a juvenile in 2018, Mind Control came back to win the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at age 3. While not successful at the top level in 2020-21, he nevertheless won graded stakes in those seasons. He capped his resume with a third Grade 1 on Saturday. In so doing, he followed in the hoofprints of his sire, Stay Thirsty, who concluded his career with a narrow Cigar Mile score in 2012.
Todd Pletcher, who also trained Stay Thirsty, is the conditioner of Mind Control for Red Oak Stable (Brunetti) and Madaket Stables.
“If you like horse racing, you’ve got to love this horse,” Pletcher said. “He’s cool. He’s done it consistently year after year at multiple distances. He’s a great horse to be able to train. He’s remarkably consistent and shows up every morning. He’s the type of horse that if you get into a battle with him, he’s going to fight.”
Entered fresh off a Sept. 24 victory via disqualification in the listed Parx Dirt Mile Stakes, Mind Control broke well from the outermost post 6 and tracked second as 58-1 shot Outlier led through splits of :23.26 and :46.55.
“When (Get Her Number) came to him, he got competitive,” Velazquez said as a battle developed With Get Her Number off the turn for home after three quarters in 1:11.23. The pacesetter faded, Get Her Number poked a head in front, White Abarrio joined the mix, and that was when Mind Control summoned his inner brawler.
“When (Get Her Number) put his head in front of me, I was like, ‘This is going to be a fight here,'” Velazquez remarked. “And sure enough, I went left-handed on him, he responded and put his head in front, and it was a really good fight to the wire.”
Zandon, Outlier, and Double Crown completed the order of finish. O Besos was scratched.
After riding Mind Control to his fairytale ending, Velazquez reflected on his mount’s legacy. The bay horse retires with a 12-3-6 record from 29 starts, with earnings of $2,185,834 and eight graded stakes to his credit. Along with his three Grade 1 wins, he won the 2019 Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes, the 2020 Grade 3 Toboggan Stakes and Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap, the 2021 Grade 2 John A. Nerud Stakes, and the 2022 Grade 3 Salvator Mile Stakes. He also won listed events in the 2019 Jerome Stakes and the 2021 and 2022 Parx Dirt Mile.
“I’ve been around this horse for five years and he’s been a really decent horse and shows up to the big dances with really tough horses, and he does it all the time,” Velazquez said. “I’m a little sad to see him go because he’s one of the horses that kind of keeps me in the game.”
In the race prior to the Cigar Mile on Aqueduct’s Saturday card, Dr B earned her first career stakes win in the Grade 3 $200,000 Go For Wand Stakes. Sent off as the 3-1 second choice on the tote board in a field of 10 fillies and mares, Dr B took the lead from the start on the sloppy track and went wire-to-wire to win by 4 1/4 lengths. Dr B completed the mile distance in a winning time of 1:35.18 and paid $8.10 to win for trainer Robert Reid Jr. under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. The win was an historic one for Ortiz. It was his 77th stakes victory of 2022, breaking the all-time record for stakes wins in a calendar year.
Philip Robertson & Brenda Robertson