Thursday, November 28, 2013
Breeders’ Cup winners Groupie Doll, Goldencents clash in Cigar Mile
OZONE PARK, N.Y. - One year ago, Groupie Doll won the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint before coming to Aqueduct Racetrack to face males for the first time in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap. After taking the lead in midstretch, Groupie Doll was tagged on the wire by Stay Thirsty, who got up to win by a nose.
The Cigar Mile has a base purse of $500,000, with extra purse incentives for Breeders' Cup and Grade 1 winners. Groupie Doll and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile victor Goldencents will run for a gross purse of $1 million, while Grade 1 winners Capo Bastone, Flat Out, Verrazano, and Private Zone will run for a gross purse of $750,000.
Groupie Doll, voted the Champion Female Sprinter for 2012, belatedly opened her 2013 campaign by finishing third in the Grade 3 Gardenia at Ellis Park before rebounding to take the Grade 2 Presque Isle Masters in September. After reporting home third in the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America in October at Keeneland, she repeated in the Breeders' Cup by sweeping to the lead at the top of the stretch and holding off Judy the Beauty and Dance Card to prevail by a half-length.
Four days after the Breeders' Cup, Groupie Doll went through the sales ring at Keeneland and was acquired by breeder Mandy Pope. Trainer Buff Bradley, who owned Groupie Doll in partnership with his father Fred Bradley, Carl Hurst, and Brent Burns, said he talked to Pope immediately after the Bowman's Band mare had sold about the possibility of running her new acquisition in the Cigar Mile.
"After she sold, as soon as the press were finished I went to talk to [Pope]," said Bradley. "I wanted to ask her if we'd be able to visit her at the farm and to tell her I'd be happy to tell her anything she needed to know about her. Then I told her that if she had thought about keeping her in training that she could talk to me. She said she'd think about it and I gave her my card, and the next day she called me and said she wanted to run [in the Cigar Mile]. We were thrilled when she made that decision; it's been a bonus for me and my team.
"She showed last year that she likes the track when she ran a huge race, and even though she was going to the sale, I felt like I could have thrown out the idea [of running in the Cigar Mile] to whoever might have bought her," added Bradley. "It seemed like a sensible spot, and she'd be eligible for the $1 million purse because she's a Breeders' Cup winner."
Groupie Doll has trained at Belmont Park for the Cigar Mile, turning in a pair of four-furlong breezes over the training track. She was clocked in 48.61 seconds on November 16 and in 48.55 on November 25.
"Knowing that she has run well at Aqueduct and that she's ready to go, we knew it could be done," said Bradley. "It's going to be one of her toughest tasks, but she has been training forwardly at Belmont, and all the signs are she's going to run a big race."
Rajiv Maragh has the assignment aboard Groupie Doll, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, from post position 4.
Trainer Doug O'Neill has shipped a pair of Grade 1 winners from California to New York for the Cigar Mile, including Goldencents, who employed a front-running gambit from post 11 to take the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile by 2 ¾ lengths on November 1.
The Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile was the second Grade 1 victory for W. C. Racing, Dave Kenney, and RAP Racing's Goldencents, who captured the Santa Anita Derby in April. After finishing 17th in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness, he has raced exclusively in races for 3-year-olds and up at distances between six furlongs and one mile.
Goldencents finished second in his first three starts against older horses, finishing a head behind Points Offthebench in Del Mar's six-furlong Grade 1 Bing Crosby, one length behind Fed Biz in Del Mar's Grade 2 Pat O'Brien, and a half-length behind Points Offthebench in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship.
In the Breeders' Cup, Goldencents was sent to the lead by jockey Rafael Bejarano from the outside, and the colt, after opening a five-length lead in the stretch, held sway late to defeat late-running Golden Ticket.
Bejarano has the call once again aboard Goldencents, who drew post 8 and was installed as the 7-2 second choice on the morning line.
Private Zone, imported from Panama by Good Friends Stable, won his first race in the United States when he garnered the Pirate's Bounty restricted stakes by a neck in September at Del Mar, then came to New York to take the Grade 1 Vosburgh Invitational by the same margin later in the month. In his most recent start, the front-runner dueled early before making a steady retreat when 10th, beaten 6 ¼ lengths, in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint on November 2.
Martin Pedroza will pilot Private Zone, 15-1, from post 11.
Todd Pletcher, a four-time winner of the Cigar Mile, has entered a triumvirate of 3-year-olds in this year's race, led by Verrazano, who won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial in April over the Aqueduct main track and the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational in July at Monmouth Park.
After romping by 9 ¾ lengths in the Haskell, Verrazano folded when seventh in the Grade 1 Travers in August at Saratoga Race Course and raced evenly in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile after finding himself in close quarters on the first turn when fourth by 7 ¾ lengths.
"We just need him to run to his capabilities," said Pletcher of Verrazano, owned by Let's Go Stable, Michael Tabor, John Magnier, and Derrick Smith. "I still think his win in the Haskell was arguably the best race by a 3-year-old this year. We need him to repeat the races he's capable of running. Putting the Breeders' Cup behind us, I don't think he loved the track. It's hard to gauge because he had such a rough trip going into the first turn. The track was so speed-biased that day that it was impossible to make up ground."
Javier Castellano will ride Verrazano, 8-1 on the morning line, for the first time in Cigar Mile. The More Than Ready colt drew post 10.
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Capo Bastone rallied from 11th and made up 15 lengths to prevail by two lengths and register a 28-1 upset in Saratoga's Grade 1 Foxwoods King's Bishop in August, his first stakes victory. He enters the Cigar Mile off a last-of-13 performance in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint on November 2, his only start on the grass.
"It was an experiment that went wrong," Pletcher of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. "We felt like he'd handle the turf, but, unfortunately, he didn't, so we've regrouped and gone back to his preferred surface. If he can repeat his King's Bishop performance, it gives him a big chance."
Capo Bastone, 20-1, drew post 6 and will be reunited with Irad Ortiz, Jr., who rode the Street Boss colt to victory in the Foxwoods King's Bishop.
Forty Tales has raced once at a mile, winning the Grade 3 Derby Trial by a neck over Capo Bastone in April at Churchill Downs. He added wins in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens presented by NYRA Rewards in June at Belmont and the Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga before his three-race winning streak came to an end with a fourth in the Foxwoods King's Bishop.
Following that race, Forty Tales raced twice against older horses in the fall at Belmont, finishing fourth in the Vosburgh in September and second by 1 ½ lengths to Clearly Now in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap on October 26.
"I thought he ran really well in the Bold Ruler," said Pletcher. "He broke more alertly than he normally does, and he sort of made three different runs during the course of the race, which is always hard to do. I think his preferred running style is to settle behind a fast pace and make one run, so this race could set up that way for him."
Forty Tales, 10-1, will leave from post 2 with Joel Rosario in the irons.
Clearly Now will face Forty Tales once again in the Cigar Mile. In the seven-furlong Bold Ruler, Clearly Now tracked favored Strapping Groom to the top of the stretch, quickly overhauled the leader once given his cue, and was never seriously threatened by Forty Tales' late challenge. The Bold Ruler was Clearly Now's first start wearing blinkers.
"He seems to be getting better and has improved with blinkers," said Brian Lynch, who trains Clearly Now for Up Hill Stable. "He ran a great race the other day [in the Bold Ruler], and he got a great ride [from Jose Lezcano]."
Lezcano has the return assignment aboard Clearly Now, who will leave from post 3 as the 5-1 third choice on the morning line.
Preston Stables' Flat Out, a two-time winner of the Grade 1, 1 ¼-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational and of the Grade 2, 1 1/8-mile Suburban Handicap, demonstrated he can be just as sharp at one mile when he made a pair of starts during this year's spring/summer meet at Belmont. The 7-year-old wore down Cross Traffic to win the Grade 3 Westchester by a head in April and was third in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap after being caught in traffic on the turn.
After taking Belmont's Suburban Handicap by 2 ½ lengths in July, Flat Out missed by just a head when second to Alpha in the Grade 1 Woodward in August at Saratoga and was a distant third in his attempt to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup for a third straight year in September at Belmont. He enters the Cigar Mile off an eighth, beaten 9 ¾ lengths, in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic on November 2 and has been training at Payson Park in Florida.
"I think he's able to be effective at a mile," said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott of Flat Out. "I hope he runs his 'A' race in the Cigar Mile. If he repeats [his Westchester performance], then maybe he'll get a big piece of it. We were thinking about running in the Cigar Mile before the Breeders' Cup and had discussed not running in the Breeders' Cup and waiting for the Cigar Mile, but it turns out he's going to run in them both. He looks great, has a nice coat, and has had a couple of nice works."
Flat Out, 6-1, will leave from post 9 with Junior Alvarado at the helm.
The Cigar Mile will be the second start on dirt around one turn for Laugh Track, whose rally came up a neck short when second to Secret Circle in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint on November 2. Previously, his only other start on dirt was a fifth in the Grade 2, 1 1/16-mile Alysheba in May at Churchill Downs.
Following the Alysheba, Laugh Track competed twice in sprints on synthetic surfaces, winning the Grade 3 Vigil at Woodbine in June and finishing second in the Grade 3 Phoenix in October at Keeneland.
Hall of Famer Mike Smith has the call aboard Laugh Track, tabbed at 12-1, from post 5.
Saratoga Snacks, a three-time stakes winner against New York-breds for owner Bill Parcells, will make his graded stakes debut in the Cigar Mile. He'll be cutting back in distance after winning the 1 1/8-mile Empire Classic Handicap on October 19 at Belmont Park.
Jose Ortiz will ride Saratoga Snacks, 12-1, for the first time in the Cigar Mile. The 4-year-old ridgling drew post 7.
Completing the field is Praetereo, who rolled home to a 5 ¾-length score in an optional claimer on November 8 at the Big A.
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