First of all, I certainly hope that all of you had a very Happy Thanksgiving holiday. On a personal note, I was glad to see that West Point Thoroughbred's Prince Teton picked up a win at Churchill Downs on Friday's card. I have a friend who is a part-owner of this horse through West Point and he is going through a bit of a tough time and certainly needed some good news, which he got through the Friday win. That being said, we now progress with the Grade 1 Cigar Mile, the final Grade 1 race of the year in New York. Here is a horse-by-horse analysis:
#1 Pyro-OK, which is the real horse? The one that won the seven-furlong Forego at Saratoga or the one that ran last in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Was it just the synthetic in California he didn't like (his last three races over the synthetic have produced a sixth and two tenths) or is he due for a fall? He posted a bullet five-furlong workout at Belmont on November 22, but Johnny Velazquez is on a different horse in here. Richard Migliore picks up the ride, which does not engender confidence in me. I will pass on Pyro here.
#1a Vineyard Haven-I will also pass on this sprinting specialist since I think the one mile distance is too far for him. If Godolphin was looking for a horse for this spot, I think they might have better suited to bring Regal Ransom back in here. I think the mile is ideal for him and he would have been a rock-solid choice in this short field. Vineyard Haven has not been a mile since winning the Champagne at Belmont in October 2008.
#2 Driven By Success-This gelding scored a three-length win in a state-restricted stakes race at Belmont Park on October 24. He has yet to win a graded stakes in 2009 and I don't think he does it in the Cigar Mile. In fact, his best graded result this season is third, which he achieved twice. It appears he might need the lead and I think Vineyard Haven will run with him early and the other quality in this field will run him out of it by the stretch.
#3 Kodiak Kowboy-The distance is a question for this one as well. The connections passed on sending him out west to run in the Breeders' Cup over the synthetic surface to point to this spot, but his only one mile race in 2009 was...well, he never went this far in 2009. His last start at a mile was in this race last year and he ran fifth in a field of nine. He is one for one since the switch to trainer Steve Asmussen, but I just think he might have too much going against him here.
#4 Bribon-This will be my top pick in the Cigar Mile on Saturday. He closed well to get third in this race last year. All of his 2009 starts have been at this distance and he managed to win four of those, two with graded company. He tried the turf in his last two performance and scored a win and a fifth. The fifth came in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile against a field that included Breeders' Cup performers. He also has a recent bullet workout at Belmont Park, going five furlongs over the Belmont training track in 59 seconds flat.
#5 Vacation-This is the horse that Johnny V elected to ride here over Pyro. He has three wins from ten starts this year. However, all three of those wins were over synthetic surfaces at Keeneland and Arlington. His last start on the actual dirt resulted in a sixth at Gulfstream in March. He has run second in all three previous starts at Aqueduct and I can see him achieving that position behind Bribon again in here.
Here is the play for the Cigar Mile:
$20 WIN #4 and $5 EX 4 with 5
Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers place in conjunction with these selections, they are merely suggestions. Tune in again on Monday for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!