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A 'Sharp' Cigar Mile Winner

by Jon White

December 6, 2017

Considering how many admirable performances we have seen from Sharp Azteca in the last year or so, it seemed to be an injustice that he had never won a Grade I race. But he finally was able to get off the Grade I schneid last weekend.

Sharp Azetca at last became a Grade I winner when he rolled to a 5 1/4-length victory in Aqueduct’s Grade I Cigar Mile last Saturday for trainer Jorge Navarro. The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred Freud colt stepped one mile on the Big A main track in 1:35.17.

Prior to the Cigar Mile, Sharp Azteca had been victorious in a pair of Grade II events this year -- the Gulfstream Park Handicap in February and Kelso Handicap in September at Belmont. He also won a Grade III race, the Monmouth Cup, in July.

He had finished second in all three of his previous tries at the Grade I level. He ran second in the Grade I Malibu at Santa Anita late in 2016, Grade I Met Mile in June at Belmont and Grade I Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Del Mar.

The runner-up in this year’s Cigar Mile was Mind Your Biscuits, who had finished third behind Battle of Midway and Sharp Azteca in this year’s BC Dirt Mile. Chad Summers trains Mind Your Biscuits, who won the 2016 Malibu by a half-length over Sharp Azteca.

Summers was not surprised to see Sharp Azteca get his first Grade I win. The morning after the race, Summers said in the Aqueduct Racetrack Notes: “I did an interview a while back, and I said Sharp Azteca will be a Grade I winner someday. I just hope I don’t have to run against him when he does it.”

Mind Your Biscuits did acquit himself well in defeat, though. He recorded a 107 Beyer Speed Figure.

“I was proud of him,” Summers said.

Mind Your Biscuits’ 107 Beyer matched his career-best figure. He also received a 107 Beyer when he won the Malibu. The 107 also was higher than the figure for the winner of the last two Cigar Miles, Correct (106 in 2016) and Tonalist (105 in 2017). 

Sharp Azteca was assigned a 115 Beyer Speed Figure for his Cigar Mile win. It’s the highest Beyer by a Cigar Mile winner since Discreet Cat recorded a 116 when he won the race 11 years ago.

In fact, Sharp Azteca’s 115 Beyer for the Cigar Mile was equal to the 115 figure by none other than Cigar, for whom the race is named, in the 1994 renewal. Cigar won the race by seven lengths when it was called the NYRA Mile. It became the Cigar Mile in 1997.

According to the American Racing Manual, these are the Beyers for winners of the Cigar Mile going back to 1990:

2017 Sharp Azteca (115)
2016 Connect (106)
2015 Tonalist (105)
2014 Private Zone (110)
2013 Flat Out (110)
2012 Stay Thirsty (109)
2011 To Honor and Serve (104)
2010 Jersey Town (111)
2009 Kodiak Kowboy (106)
2008 Tale of Ekati (106)*
2007 Daaher (114)
2006 Discreet Cat (116)
2005 Purge (111)
2004 Lion Tamer (111)
2003 Congaree (120)
2002 Congaree (120)
2001 Left Bank (118)
2000 El Corredor (112)
1999 Affirmed Success (109)
1998 Sir Bear (111)
1997 Devious Course (109)
1996 Gold Fever (108)
1995 Flying Chevron (112)
1994 Cigar (115)
1993 not run
1992 Ibero (114)
1991 Rubiano (110)
1990 Quiet American (124)

*Harlem Rocker finished first by a nose and recorded a 106 but was disqualified and placed second. Tale of Ekati, who finished second and also recorded a 106, was moved up to first via disqualification.


The good news for Catholic Boy is he won the Remsen at Aqueduct last Saturday.

The bad news for Catholic Boy is he won the Remsen at Aqueduct last Saturday.

First let’s consider the good news.

The good news is that the Kentucky-bred More Than Ready colt was more than ready to race on dirt for the first time. Sixth early, he drew away in the stretch to win by an emphatic 4 3/4 lengths at 4-1 in the wagering while leaving nine opponents in his wake. 

Also, the good news is that by winning the Remsen, Catholic Boy already has demonstrated that he can succeed going 1 1/8 miles. And the manner in which he won going 1 1/8 miles could bode well for him going even farther on down the road, say perhaps going 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May in 2018.

There also is good news in that Catholic Boy was assigned a 91 Beyer Speed Figure.

The bad news for Catholic Boy is 22 straight Remsen winners have been unable to subsequently win the roses. No Remsen victor has captured the Kentucky Derby since Thunder Gulch took both races in 1994 and 1995. 

Considering a 2-year-old must possess a good deal of stamina in order to win the 1 1/8-mile Remsen, I must say that I am surprised it has been so long since a Kentucky Derby winner had been victorious in the Remsen. Perhaps Catholic Boy is the one who finally will end the Remsen drought vis-a-vis the Run for the Roses. If he does, he will do what his sire could not. Catholic Boy is by More Than Ready, who finished fourth behind Fusaichi Pegasus, Aptitude and Impeachment in the Kentucky Derby of 2000.

Trained by Jonathan Thomas, Catholic Boy won his first two career starts, both on the grass. He registered a two-length victory in a 7 1/2-furlong maiden race at Gulfstream Park on July 20, then won Saratoga’s Grade III With Anticipation by one length at 1 1/16 miles on Aug. 30.

In Catholic Boy’s lone loss to date, he finished fourth when again competing on the grass in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar on Nov. 3. Despite not having the best of trips, he lost that 1 1/16-mile event by only 1 1/2 lengths.

Getting back to Catholic Boy’s 91 Beyer Speed Figure in the Remsen, it stacks up quite well in relation to recent winners of this race. These are the Beyers for winners of the Remsen going back to 1991:

2017 Catholic Boy (91)
2016 Mo Town (86)
2015 Mohaymen (95)
2014 Leave the Light On (90)
2013 Honor Code (88)
2012 Overanalyze (99)
2011 O’Prado Again (80)
2010 To Honor and Serve (102)
2009 Buddy’s Saint (82)
2008 Old Fashioned (100)
2007 Court Vision (76)
2006 Nobiz Like Shobiz (97)
2005 Bluegrass Cat (95)
2004 Rockport Harbor (102)
2003 Read the Footnotes (105)
2002 Toccet (101)
2001 Saarland (87)
2000 Windsor Castle (92)
1999 Greenwood Lake (91)
1998 Comeonmom (94)
1997 Coronado’s Quest (91)
1996 The Silver Move (91)
1995 Tropicool (94)
1994 Thunder Gulch (89)
1993 Go for Gin (95)
1992 Silver of Silver (96)
1991 Pine Bluff (93)

Mo Town lost his next four starts after winning the 2016 Remsen by 2 1/2 lengths. His four-race losing streak ended in his grass debut on Oct. 12 at Belmont Park when he won a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race by 6 1/2 lengths. That was followed by a one-length victory on the turf in Del Mar’s Grade I Hollywood Derby on Nov. 25.

Catholic Boy and Mo Town have something in common. They both are out of a Bernardini mare. Catholic Boy’s dam is Song of Bernadette. Mo Town’s dam is Grazie Mille.


After Wonder Gadot won Woodbine’s Grade III Mazarine by six lengths at 1 1/16 miles on synthetic footing Oct. 7, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro was my pick to win the Grade I BC Juvenile Fillies at the same distance on the dirt Nov. 4 at Del Mar.

Sent away at 12-1 in her Breeders’ Cup race, Wonder Gadot had a troubled trip and finished sixth behind the victorious Caledonia Road. Wonder Gadot then rebounded to win the Big A’s Grade II Demoiselle by 3 3/4 lengths at 1 1/16 miles as the 8-5 favorite last Saturday.

Trainer Mark Casse currently has quite a collection of quality 2-year-old fillies. In addition to Wonder Gadot, Casse conditions Road to Victory and Win the War. Road to Victory and Win the War both are two for two.

Road to Victory posted a 3 1/2-length triumph in a seven-furlong maiden race on the grass Oct. 1 at Woodbine in her career debut. The Kentucky-bred Quality Road filly then switched to the dirt and won Churchill Downs’ Grade II Golden Rod by a neck at 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 25.

To me, an impressive aspect regarding Road to Victory’s Golden Rod performance was her final time of 1:43.36. It’s the second-fastest Golden Rod in the 37 years since the distance of the race was changed in 1980 to 1 1/16 miles from seven furlongs. And who has recorded the fastest final time in the Golden Rod in the last 37 years? It was Rachel Alexandra, who won the race in 1:43.08 in 2008. Rachel Alexander, voted 2009 Horse of the Year, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.

Road to Victory was assigned a 91 Beyer Speed Figure for her Golden Rod win. No 2-year-old filly has recorded a higher Beyer in a race at one mile or longer this year.

As for Win the War, she kicked off her racing career with a neck win in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race on the grass Oct. 20 at Woodbine. She then romped to an 11 1/4-length victory in the Glorious Song at seven furlongs on synthetic footing there Nov. 19.

Win the War was assigned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure for her Glorious Song victory. It is the highest Beyer recorded by a 2-year-old filly this year.

Wonder Gadot, whose final time in the 1 1/8-mile Demoiselle was 1:53.91, so far has not fared nearly as well as Road to Victory and Win the War in the Beyer Speed Figure department. Wonder Gadot recorded a career-best 82 Beyer for her win in the Demoiselle.

These are the Beyers for winners of the Demoiselle going back to 1990:

2017 Wonder Gadot (82)
2016 Miss Sky Warrior (80)
2015 Lewis Bay (71)
2014 Condo Commando (96)
2013 Stopshoppingmaria (77)
2012 Unlimited Budget (80)
2011 Desposablepleasure (71)
2010 Dixie City (77)
2009 Tizahit (81)
2008 Springside (88)
2007 Mushka (84)
2006 Boca Grande (84)
2005 Wonder Lady Anne L (89)
2004 Sis City (88)
2003 Ashado (84)
2002 Roar Emotion (92)
2001 Smok’n Frolic (94)
2000 Two Item Limit (88)
1999 Jostle (82)
1998 Better Than Honour (68)*
1997 Clark Street (74)
1996 Ajina (83)
1995 La Rosa (89)
1994 Minister Wife (93)
1993 Strategic Maneuver (86)
1992 Fortunate Faith (80)
1991 Stolen Beauty (92)
1990 Debutant’s Halo (85)

*Tutorial finished first by a nose and recorded a 68 but was disqualified and placed fifth. Better Than Honor, who finished second and also recorded a 68, was moved up to first via disqualification.