Make it 11 in a row for Cigar. And look out, Breeders Cup, here he comes.
Cigar captured the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park Saturday, beating Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch in Horse of the Year Showdown I.
Now he guns for the first perfect season since Spectacular Bid went 8 for 8 in 1980. His next start will be in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Classic Oct. 28 on this same track over this same 1-1/4-mile distance. In all probability, he will meet Thunder Gulch again in that race.
“I don’t smoke, but my horse sure does,” Cigar’s owner, Allen E. Paulson, said.
D. Wayne Lukas’ Thunder Gulch, meanwhile, fizzled to fifth in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold cup after running alongside Cigar for most of the race. The day was not a total loss for Lukas, however, as he won the 1-1/8-mile Beldame for the fifth time, with the super filly Serena’s Song.
The 5-year-old Cigar, ridden by Jerry Bailey, has won 11 in a row since trainer Bill Mott took him off grass late last year and made him a dirt horse. His average margin of victory during the streak is more than four lengths, and his one-length margin of victory over Unaccounted For in the Jockey Club Gold Cup was his smallest. Star Standard was third, another 9-3/4 lengths back.
Dernier Empereur was fourth and Thunder Gulch faded to fifth. Completing the order of finish were Jed Forest and Golden Larch.
Star Standard, ridden by Mike Smith and trained by Nick Zito, broke on top and set the pace until the field went into the final turn. All that time, Cigar on the outside and Thunder Gulch on the inside ran shoulder-to-shoulder, just off the pace.
As the field came out of the turn, however, Cigar moved to the front and Thunder Gulch dropped to the rear. Cigar paid $2.70, $2.30 and $2.10 as the favorite and earned $450,000 to up his career earnings to $3,529,815. Time over a damp but fast track was 2:01 1-5. Unaccounted For, ridden by Pat Day, returned $4.20 and $2.10, and Star Standard was $2.10.