Thursday, August 26, 2010

The 1996 Pacific Classic

Perhaps no running of the Pacific Classic is more remembered than the 1996 edition. That was during the two-year period where Cigar dominated horse racing like no horse had in nearly twenty years before he came along. Cigar went through the entire 1995 campaign undefeated, culminating his first of two consecutive Horse Of The Year titles with a magnificent win in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park. Cigar would build his winning streak up to sixteen races in a row to tie the immortal Citation's streak and the 1996 Pacific Classic would be the race that would eclipse Big Cy's record and make Cigar stand nearly alone in the annals of racing.

However, the 1996 Pacific Classic would not go the way anyone thought it would. Cigar's streak would actually end on that day, as he was passed in the stretch by Dare And Go, who sat off of the speed battle that developed and roared past Cigar and stunned everyone in attendance and watching on television (yes, in those not too far distant days, there was racing on television other than TVG and HRTV). Dare And Go's win would be the first of consecutive wins in the race for trainer Richard Mandella (Gentlemen would win the race in 1997). I was still living in Phoenix for the first time in 1996 and the thing that stands out to me was that within minutes of Cigar being beaten, the entire West Coast suffered a loss of electrical power. I recall some people jokingly thinking that since we had just seen the impossible with Cigar losing, anything could happen. The culprit ended up being a freak accident with a crucial part of electrical board in California that wasn't fixed until some time later.

Cigar would actually go on to lose twice more before the end of 1996. He would be defeated by the great Skip Away in the 1996 Jockey Club Gold Cup and would run third behind Alphabet Soup and Louis Quatorze in the 1996 Breeders' Cup Classic. For a replay of the 1996 Pacific Classic that shocked the world, here is the link:

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

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