The Grade 1 Cigar Mile will pretty much be the swan song for the strong stakes program in New York state for 2010. It will be run over the main track at Aqueduct and before too long, NYRA will be moving the racing to the inner track at The Big A.
It would appear to me that this race will have quite a bit of speed in it with Haynesfield, Vineyard Haven, Friend Or Foe, and Jersey Haven all running toward the front end. For that reason, I will side with a closer in here with #3 Bribon. While Bribon seems to have found a niche as a sprinter or an extended sprinter this season, keep in mind that the one mile distance at Aqueduct is a one-turn race, turning this into an extended sprint. Johnny Velazquez was aboard for the win the Grade 3 Bold Ruler last time out on October 30 and gets the call again here. For second, I will go with #1 Girolamo, who is part of an entry with #1a Vineyard Haven. Girolamo was a bigtime floparoo in the Breeders' Cup Sprint just three weeks ago, running 11th out of twelve horses. I think the connections got caught thinking too much after the Grade 1 Vosburgh victory at Belmont in early October. Had they sent Girolamo to the post in the Dirt Mile, I think his Breeders' Cup fortunes would have been distinctly different. He has won twice in three career starts at the one mile distance, including the Grade 2 Jerome Handicap in 2009. I will put #4 Haynesfield in the third spot. He, too, was a disaster in the Breeders' Cup. He got caught in a speed quartet in the Breeders' Cup Classic and never was able to establish any kind of lead or advantage and eventually faded to 11th. In no way did that race resemble the front-running win over the Classic winner, Blame, in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, when Haynesfield looked unbeatable. However, I think there will be a similar challenge to the lead for Haynesfield here and therefore, cannot pick him higher than this. Finally, I will inject a price into the proceedings with #8 Half Metal Jacket. This will be his second start off the most recent layoff. He ran a closing third in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler behind the top pick and Jersey Town. He gets an extra furlong to close into what should be a stout pace. His morning line odds of 12-1 make him a player here. Here is the play for the Grade 1 Cigar Mile:
$10 WIN #3
$2 EX 3 with ALL
As always, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!