Remembering the Greats: Cigar

Horse Racing Radar
Valerie Mellema
Valerie Mellema is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Friday, December 4, 2020

Many stakes races are named after horses, trainers, or other people that had an impact or impressive record on a particular track. This weekend, Aqueduct honors one particular horse that is essentially a household name for race fans - the one and only CIGAR. 

CIGAR was bred and foaled on April 18, 1990 at Country Life Farm in Bel Air, Maryland. He was by PALACE MUSIC and out of the SEATTLE SLEW mare, SOLAR SLEW. The dark bay was bred by Allen E. Paulson and owned by Allen and his wife Madeleine. 

Allen Paulson was the founder of Gulfstream Aerospace in 1983. Allen and Madeleine owned in the Del Mar Country Club in Rancho Santa Fe, California. Paulson passed away in 2000 and she later married T. Boone Pickens, the famous Texas Oilman. 

PALACE MUSIC, by THE MINSTREL, was the leading sire in North America at the time. Madeleine was listed as the original owner of CIGAR. She stated in the 2003 book Legacies of the Turf by Edward L. Bowen, that she traded CIGAR to her husband Allen for the filly ELIZA, who won the 1992 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and that year's Eclipse Award for American Champion Two-Year-Old Filly. 

CIGAR was not actually named after cigars. Cigar refers to the "navigational intersection for airplanes." Paulson named several of his horses after the five-letter names give to the intersections of aeronautical navigational charts. 

CIGAR did not race as a two-year-old and he wasn't even a stakes winner at three. He was first trained by Alex Hassinger Jr. His best finishes as a three-year-old were a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Volante Handicap at Santa Anita during the Oak Tree Racing Association and a third in the Grade 3 Ascot Handicap at Bay Meadows. During this part of his three-year-old season, he switched from the dirt to the turf. He earned a total of $89,175 that year. 

In 1994, moved from the west coast to the east coast to the barn of Bill Mott. He took this first half of the year off and brought him back in July. He was still running in allowance races at Saratoga and Belmont. Then one day, Mott found the sweet spot. He ran at a mile on the dirt at Aqueduct. On October 28, 1994, he won by 8 lengths and went on a nearly two-year winning streak. From there, he stepped way up in class and ran CIGAR in the Grade 1 NYRA Mile. At the time, the top New York stakes winner was DEVIL HIS DUE. CIGAR won the race by seven lengths. 

That race would later be named after CIGAR and it concluded his four-year-old campaign. He finished that campaign with two wins from six starts and with earnings of $180,838. 

In 1995, CIGAR was a five-year-old and proving that some racehorses only get better with age. He entered a 1 1/16th allowance race at Gulfstream Park in January. He won by two lengths. He then went to the Donn Handicap at 1 ? mile against HOLY BULL. HOLY BULL was the favorite in the 1994 Kentucky Derby but was eclipsed by the win of GO FOR GIN for Nick Zito that year. Unfortunately, this was HOLY BULL'S last race, as he broke down. The breakdown stole away the attention from CIGAR, who won the race handily and was sitting on his winning streak still. 

Next, he went to Pimlico for the Pimlico Special at 1 3/16 miles. CIGAR again defeated DEVIL HIS DUE and CONCERN. Then onto Suffolk Downs for the Massachusetts Handicap. He was on fire with his 8th win in a row. 

CIGAR flew to California, a place where several top horses saw losses when switching coasts. The tracks in California are harder than the East coast tracks. Even his damsire, SEATTLE SLEW, lost in California.  His next entry was the Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park. The field was spectacular with the top horses of the day - BEST PAL, TINNER'S WAY, CONCERN, and URGENT REQUEST. They had won Santa Anita Handicap, Pacific Classic Stakes, and the California Stakes. BEST PAL was the Kentucky Derby runner-up. CIGAR entered as the odds-on favorite. He carried top weight of 126 pounds and was piloted by Hall of Fame jockey, Jerry Bailey. CIGAR smoked them, winning by 3 ½ lengths with a final time of 1:59 ?.

CigarBack on the East coast, he went to Belmont Park to prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic. He won the Woodward Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup as prep races. Then he went to take the Breeders' Cup Classic in record time 1:59.58. 

CIGAR finished that year with a perfect 10 for 10 record and earnings of $4,819,800. He had gone on a 12 win streak. He was named Horse of the Year and American Champion Older Male Horse at the Eclipse Awards. 

In today's racing era, he probably would have gone to stud, but he wasn't done. His connections had their eyes on the inaugural Dubai World Cup. The race was the richest in the world with a $4 million purse. At this time, few horses traveled to an entirely different continent, ran true to their form, and then returned home well. CIGAR prepped with the Donn Handicap, which he won again, and then took a plane 6000 miles to Dubai. Although the race was won in fantastic fashion, he still hit the wire a length ahead of SOUL OF THE MATTER. His winning streak was now at 14 and he was the world's highest stakes-winning racehorse. He had 14 wins in a row. 

From there, he went to Suffolk Downs for the Massachusetts Handicap. He carried 130 pounds, but that couldn't hold him back either. He won his 15th straight race.  He was on the verge of breaking the record of the historic CITATION who won 16 in a row from 1948 to 1950. 

Now it's 1995 and Arlington Park created a special race for this historic moment. They called it the Arlington Citation Challenge. His challengers were DRAMATIC GOLD and UNBRIDLED'S SONG. Again, he carried 130 pounds and again, he would pull away and win his 16th race in a row. He set the single-season stakes-winning record for a North American-based Thoroughbred of $4,819,800. He also broke SUNDAY SILENCE'S mark of $4,578,454. He would hold this 16 win record until 2010, when the queen, ZENYATTA, surpassed him. 

CIGAR tried for yet another win at the Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar. A record crowd of 40,000 people attended and it was his last race in California. Jerry Bailey had rode him wide most of the way and he was drawn into a three-horse speed dual between DRAMATIC GOLD and SIPHON. Tired, DARE AND GO was able to pass the leaders and win in an upset. CIGAR finished second. It was the end of his impressive winning streak. 

CIGAR would rebound of course,  in the 1996 Woodward Stakes at Belmont. That was his last win, however. He lost to SKIP AWAY in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, finishing third. His last race was the Breeders' Cup Classic at Woodbine, where he suffered another wide trip and finished third behind ALPHABET SOUP, ridden by Chris McCarron, and LOUIS QUATORZE,  ridden by Pat Day. What an era of racing the 90s was!

He finished the year with plenty of awards though including a second Champion Older Male and Horse of the Year honors. As a six-year-old,  he won five of eight starts with earnings of $4,910,000. His third-place finish in the Classic cost him the chance to be the first $10 million winner. Instead, he retired with $9,999,815. He held the title of America's top money earner until CURLIN surpassed him 2008. He also finished his career with Racehorse of the Decade of the 90s. 

CIGAR was retired in 1996 to stud and he was honored during the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden. Allen Paulson sold 75% of him to Coolmore Stud and Michael Tabor. He was valued at $25 million. He went to Ashford Stud but proved infertile as a stallion. None of the 34 mares he covered became pregnant. 

So he went to the Kentucky Horse Park's Hall of Champions in Lexington. In April 2014, he began to suffer from osteoarthritis in his spine, which caused weakness in his legs. He passed away on October 7th, 2014 due to complications from surgery.

In an article by Paulick Report, Jerry Bailey remembers CIGAR and the bond they had. "It was his personality. He was just so cool. Early on after his first two or three races, I knew he was something special."


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