What the final Grade 1 of the NYRA season, the Cigar Mile, lacks in star quality it makes up for in competitiveness. What makes it more vexing is the fact that the fastest horse by definition is coming off a lengthy layoff for a barn not known to excel in those scenarios.

So many are capable of winning this: old warrior Wanderin Boy (4-1), the previously referenced Monterey Jazz (6-1), the fast, improved Kodiak Kowboy (7-2), streaking Big A lover Bribon (6-1), undefeated Storm Play (9-2), etc., etc. We must believe, however, events dictate that value is an imperative, and that Tale of Ekati (12-1) is the correct play.

Like Bribon, Tale OF Ekati loves Aqueduct. Prior to wining his most recent start, the G2 Jerome mile at Belmont, his best performance figure came in the G1 Wood Memorial this spring, in which he showed gameness with a rail run, emerging from close quarters with a game score.

His best effort came last out in the Jerome, a career best performance figure, but not so big as to project a certain regression. The Jerome is a one-turn mile, similar to today’s scenario, which suits this colt’s style best, that of a stretch running sprinter.

A three-year-old, he still has developmental potential and with 55 days rest and a series of strong, steady works. Despite meeting elders here, his 116 assignment seems fair. His tactical speed and ability to win from anywhere on the racetrack augurs well.

Taking the value offered on Tale of Ekati to win at 8-1 or greater, keying him first and second in exactas with Wanderin Boy, adding Bribon, Kodiak Kowboy and Storm Play to the trifecta mix.

Running Totals: (319) 96-66-43. Total Dollar Return: $661.00 [win selections only] {Friday results not included}