Tag Archives: horse racing

Vodacom Durban: Line Up Changes for July

Heavy Metal wins in Durban in 2013. (Image: timeslive.co.za)

With Africa’s biggest horse race just around the corner, there have been several changes to the starting line up for July 4th’s Vodacom Durban. The South African handicap, run over 11 furlongs and nearly 120 years old, has lost five of its original runners recently, including King Of Pain and Siren’s Call. With Inara, Same Jurisdiction and Louis The King also out of the running, it just goes to show that punters need to keep an eye on the sports pages. Replacements include Punta Arenas, priced at around 5000 as of early June, as well as Dynastic Power, favorite amongst the newcomers at around 2500.

Race Fever!

The often-humid east coast city of Durban, famous for (amongst other things) “bunny chow”, a delicacy consisting of a hollowed out loaf filled with curry, is a great spot to visit for horse race fans. Race fever surrounding the Vodacom Durban starts as early as April. Gambling is quite heavily controlled in South Africa, and Durbanites tend to make the most of South Africa’s traditionally more relaxed attitude to horse race betting. By contrast, casino gambling, including online via guide sites like Yebo Yes, which provides information on trusted and legal sites, is relatively strictly controlled. Brick-and-mortar casinos, as well as the SA National Lottery, are also popular but subject to strict licensing.

Visiting Durban

For overseas visitors, July is a good time to go, as the southern hemisphere city experiences mild temperatures – usually between the mid-60s and low 70s Fahrenheit. Durban’s Greyville Racecourse, the venue for the event, is a legendary track with excellent facilities and a thrilling atmosphere, provided largely by the 55,000 enthusiastic race fans that pack the stands. Visitors don’t have to eat bunny chow (though it’s definitely worth trying); there’s a great selection of restaurants and bars on-site on race day, including formal and buffet choices. Away from the track, the city and surrounding areas offer amazing days out, including the Bluff Nature Reserve, shipwreck scuba diving, golf at Windsor Park and uShaka Marine World, where you’ll enjoy one of the world’s top 5 aquariums and an amazing water park.

Watching from Home

If you’re planning to watch the action at home in the US, the current joint favorites are Legislate and The Conglomerate, priced at around 1200, with Power King third at 2000. Other replacement runners include Halve The Deficit, quite strongly backed at 3300 (joint fourth); Dynamic at 4000; and Mac De Lago, a relative outsider, at 10000. Remember though – these prices will inevitably change, and the starting line up could well do the same before July 4th!

American Pharoah Trainer Bob Baffert Makes Charitable Donation to Old Friends

Trainer Bob Baffert and his son, Bode, visit with Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Silver Charm at Old Friends. (Photo by Tim Wilson)

GEORGETOWN, KY – JUNE 8, 2015 – Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Georgetown, KY, will be the recipient of a $50,000 donation from Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and his wife, Jill.

Baffert’s American Pharoah swept the coveted Triple Crown — the first in 37 years — when he won the Belmont Stakes on June 6.

Immediately following the horse’s victory the Bafferts pledged a $50,000 donation each to four charitable organizations: Old Friends, The Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund, The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and CARMAcares.

Old Friends is the retirement home of three of Baffert’s former trainees: Derby contender Danthebluegrassman, multiple grade 1 winning fan favorite Game On Dude and 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Silver Charm.

Baffert visited Old Friends just prior to this year’s Kentucky Derby where he saw Silver Charm for the first time in more than a decade.

“I want to share this; I want to make sure that those horses that we really love — we have to take care of them,” Baffert said following American Pharoah’s Belmont victory. “Win, lose, or draw, I was going to do it.”

“We are so grateful to Bob and Jill for this wonderful gift,” said Michael Blowen, president and founder of Old Friends. “The thrill and excitement of the first Triple Crown in 37 years would have been enough, but their generosity is unsurpassed, as is their love and dedication to the horses.” Blowen added.

“Everyone at Old Friends wishes to congratulate Bob and Jill and American Pharoah’s owners the Zayat family on their historic victory, and for sharing their wonderful horse with all of his fans.”

Old Friends is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that cares for more than 110 retired racehorses. Its Dream Chase Farm, located in Georgetown, KY, is open to tourists daily by appointment. Old Friends also has a satellite facility in Greenfield Center, New York, Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division, which is also open to visitors. For more information on tours or to make a donation, contact the main farm at (502) 863-1775 or see their website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

MEDIA CONTACT: Cynthia Grisolia, (347) 423-7322, cindy@oldfriendsequine.org or Michael Blowen, (502) 863-1775, michael@oldfriendsequine.org

Old Friends to Launch Booster Campaign Featuring Artwork by Daily Racing Funnies

GEORGETOWN, KY – JUNE 8, 2015 – Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Georgetown, KY, is launching a quarterly Booster campaign that will offer a seasonal T-shirt with artwork by Daily Racing Funnies.

Booster is an online crowdfunding site for charitable causes that revolves around selling custom T-shirts directly to supporters. This first campaign, “Summertime”, will run for two weeks beginning June 8 and the goal will be to sell 50 t-shirts.

The first Booster shirt will feature Old Friends’ equine retirees enjoying such summertime activities as swimming, having a picnic, boating and enjoying barbequed carrots. A new shirt with a seasonal design will be available in Fall, Winter and next Spring.

To view the shirts or to order, visit http://www.booster.com/oldfriendsummertime.

The unisex T-shirts are made of 100 percent Gildan Ultra Cotton and the designs are rendered in full color. The price is $20 with $5 for shipping and handling and all proceeds go directly to Old Friends. There is no additional shipping and handling on multiple orders.

The San Diego-based Daily Racing Funnies has been creating whimsical horseracing-themed comics via its website including humorous looks at such champions as Take Charge Brandi, California Chrome and American Pharoah.

To learn more about Rick and Marcy (Mel) of Daily Racing Funnies, visit their website at www.dailyracingfunnies.com or join their Fan Page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drfmel.

Old Friends is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that cares for more than 110 retired racehorses. Its Dream Chase Farm, located in Georgetown, KY, is open to tourists daily by appointment. Old Friends also has a satellite facility in Greenfield Center, New York, Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division, which is also open to visitors. For more information on tours or to make a donation, contact the main farm at (502) 863-1775 or see their website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

MEDIA CONTACT: Cynthia Grisolia, (347) 423-7322, cindy@oldfriendsequine.org or Sylvia Stiller, (502) 863-1775, sylvia@oldfriendsequine.org

“Secret Lives of the Super Rich: The Triple Crown” at 10p ET/PT June 4, 2015

CNBC has been documenting American Pharoah’s journey as he races towards the Triple Crown this Saturday at the Belmont Stakes. We will take viewers behind the scenes with “Secret Lives of the Super Rich: The Triple Crown” at 10p ET/PT.

This special presents thoroughbred racing like you’ve never seen it before, with unprecedented access on and off the track, including thrill-filled moments inside the VIP winner’s circle. It’s an exclusive and up close look inside the unforgettable journey of the father and son team who own American Pharoah as they win the most prestigious races in America, take home millions in prize money, and race against history for the most elusive title in all of sports: The Triple Crown.

Below are a few clips from the special:

Triple Crown All-Access Pass
CNBC gives you an inside look into American Pharoah’s race against history.

Air Horse One
American Pharoah doesn’t fly coach — his ticket is first-class on a custom Boeing 727 that’s been transformed into the ultimate stable in the sky!

American Pharoah’s Owner Runs for the Roses
Get up close and personal with the 23-year-old owner of American Pharoah, Justin Zayat, as he experiences the gut-wrenching thrill of winning the Kentucky Derby.

AmericanPharoah3“Secret Lives of the Super Rich: The Triple Crown” Promo
A look inside the unforgettable journey of the father and son team who own American Pharoah as they race against history for the most elusive title in all of sports: The Triple Crown.

Tune-in Details: “Secret Lives of the Super Rich: The Triple Crown” premieres Thursday 10p ET/PT on CNBC.

Join the conversation on Twitter with #SuperRich and @CNBCSuperRich or on Facebook at facebook.com/CNBCPrime. Go to cnbcprime.com/super-rich/ for more details.

CNBC Plaza, 900 Sylvan Avenue, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632

American Pharoah Wins 2015 Kentucky Derby

American Pharoah reigns supreme at the 2015 Kentucky Derby!

The 2-year-old champion ridden by Victor Espinoza beat out the field of 18 before a record crowd of 170,513 at Churchill Downs on Saturday, capping the two-week-long festival featuring bizarre hats, fancy dining and powerful thoroughbreds.

Firing Line came in second, followed by Dortmund. The win would be jockey Espinoza’s second straight at the Derby.

The speedy colt American Pharoah was the favorite heading into the 141st running of The Derby, with odds of 5-2. American Pharoah had won his past four races, and it was Espinoza who rode California Chrome to victory in 2014.

Experts’ second-favorite horse was Dortmund, with odds of 3-1. Both horses were trained by the Hall of Fame inductee Bob Baffert, who secured his fourth Derby win. Baffert could also take credit for the horse finishing third.

Dortmund set the pace at the start, closely followed by Firing Line and American Pharoah. But as the 1.25 mile race wore on, American Pharoah made a move for the lead and held it across the finish line first, securing a $2 million guaranteed minimum purse.

The race time was 2:03.02, run under sunny skies.

“I’m speechless,” American Pharoah’s owner Ahme Zayat said. “We are very blessed.”

“We were ready to rumble,” Baffert said. “I just love what I saw today from both of my boys.”

American Pharoah makes a bit of an oddball champion, having an abnormally short tail, and a misspelled name (Pharoah”). But who doesn’t enjoy a victor with some character?

The rest of the results follow, beginning with fourth place:

Frosted, Danzig Moon, Materiality, Keen Ice, Mubtaahij, Itsaknockout, Carpe Diem, Frammento, Bolo, Mr. Z, Ocho Ocho Ocho, Far Right, War Story, Tencendur, Upstart.

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Racing Welfare Statement

American Quarter Horse Association, May 1, 2015 – Yesterday, legislation was introduced into the United States Congress to end interstate wagering. The American Quarter Horse Association opposes this bill because it threatens the existence of the horse racing industry in America and disregards the positive work the industry is doing regarding the welfare of the horse.

AQHA believes that equine welfare is of paramount importance, and as part of the industry effort, AQHA has implemented its Multiple Medication Violation System, addressed the misuse of medication and performance-enhancing drugs, funds equine welfare research, and supports the adoption of the national uniform medication program. In addition, AQHA continues dialog with racetracks and state jurisdictions to support increased testing and rule enforcement.

AQHA stands firm in its opposition of this bill while we and our industry partners continue to make significant and meaningful progress on welfare issues.

For more information on American Quarter Horse racing, visit www.aqharacing.com.

American Quarter Horse Association
1600 Quarter Horse Drive
Amarillo, TX 79104

Fun & Fashion at the Cheltenham Festival

Horse racing and eventing fans benefit from something very few other sports can truthfully claim: there is no real off-season. However, while there are professional racing events that happen during the winter, the next couple of months will bring about at a slight decline in the interest that is paid to the sport. This means that the next big events on the horse racing schedule will start to occur in the spring. Among these, the Cheltenham Festival in England is in many ways a starting point for the year to come.

For starters, the Cheltenham Festival is one of the best celebrations in racing because of its length and the balanced quality of its race day schedules. At many similar events (such as the Grand National a month later in Aintree), everything is a sideshow compared to the main event on the final day. Yet, while Cheltenham does have its own Gold Cup event, it is also designed in such a way that each day has a main event, which helps to keep the action engaging throughout. This sort of scheduling over a four-day period makes for one of the most unique and enjoyable events on the world racing calendar.

It also makes for a very busy, and thus entertaining, betting scene. Any major horse racing festival will be alive with betting activity, but with four full days of racing and four “main events,” so to speak, Cheltenham can thrill even casual fans who want to place a few light bets here and there. Beyond a chance at winning money, race betting also offers a good excuse to learn a little bit about the various competitors and odds. It’s a little early right now to be seeing much more than straight betting odds for the Cheltenham races, but in the coming months you’ll be able to view Cheltenham tips here to get a feel for the various horses expected to do well. Then, if you feel so inclined, you can be ready to make a bet or two if you attend the races (or simply track them from abroad).

Perhaps even more than the general festivity of a four-day event or the excitement brought on by a busy betting scene, it’s the fashion of the race-goers that gives Cheltenham its flavour. As is the case with many major races, spectators take the opportunity to have some fun. They try out different outfits while experimenting with gaudy and amusing, but somehow stylish, looks that are popularly associated with horse racing culture. But on Ladies Day at Cheltenham (the second day of the festival), race day fashion is taken to a whole new level. You can click here for a beautiful look at some of the photos and styles that stood out from 2014’s Ladies Day, but here are a few general tips for fashion at the festival based on past years.

  • There Are No Colour Restrictions – Sometimes people dress for the season when it comes to colour, but at Cheltenham that won’t be necessary. To begin with, the event takes place in mid-March, placing it almost between seasons anyway. Besides that, spectators in the past have come in all manner of colours, some electing to take a rustic approach and others bursting with the bright colours of summer. The idea is expression.
  • Oversized Hats Are Still Key – Oversized hats are often associated with horse racing culture, and nothing has changed in this regard. If there’s one thing you do to prepare for Cheltenham fashion, you may want to make it about selecting the perfect hat for the occasion!
  • Wear Florals & Feathers – Mind you, this doesn’t mean floral and feather patterns; it means literally wear flowers and feathers! Whether it’s a feathered ornament on your oversized hat, a brooch that resembles a flower, or even some manner of corsage, this is a popular way to accessorize for the festival.
  • Consider Fur Linings – One dilemma that spectators sometimes face at Cheltenham is wanting to go with light, bright clothing but needing to dress for cooler weather. This may change year to year, but one way around the problem is to look for accessories, light jackets, or even scarves with fur linings. It’s simply a nice, fashionable, and noticeable way to stay warm without changing your whole outfit as if you were dressing for winter.

Follow those tips and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the festival!

Max A Million 2000-2014

This weekend we were saddened by the loss of Max A Million. On Saturday morning Max showed colic symptoms. Dr. Bryan Waldridge quickly administered treatment and Sallee generously spared a van from their full sales schedule to rush Max to the hospital. Max A Million did everything right. No horse could have tried with a steadier, more cooperative determination to survive. Though horse and humans worked hard together, the efforts to save his life did not succeed.

Max A Million, a 14 year old gelded son of Jules out of King’s Sweetest by Rollicking, was stakes placed. He ran third in the 2004 Florida Thoroughbred Charities Stakes and held his own on the track for years. When his racing days were over, Topcat Stables and Francis Vitale did right by the horse who had campaigned his whole career for them and ensured his future. Max A Million came to Old Friends in 2008. He lived at the main Kentucky farm.

Max was a compact bay, not flashy, not big, but handsome. He came as close to the perfect resident as it gets. Max A Million was always kind, always willing and beautifully behaved. Oh, one time he was a little bad when he joined his best buddy Discreet Hero in pestering A. P. Slew. Just once in all his six years with us. Day in and day out, Max a Million was a sociable citizen of his herd and a pleasure to be around.

He and Discreet Hero were always fast friends, and when Max colicked it was Discreet Hero who stood by him until help arrived. Hero is not the only one who will miss Max. In his many good days of retirement and in his final hours, Max A Million showed unfailing heart and kindness. We will all miss him.

About Old Friends

Old Friends is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that cares for more than 110 retired racehorses. Its Dream Chase Farm, located in Georgetown, KY, is open to tourists daily by appointment. Old Friends also has a satellite facility in Greenfield Center, New York, Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division, which is also open to visitors. For more information on tours or to make a donation, contact the main farm at (502) 863-1775 or see their website at www.oldfriendsequine.org.

MEDIA CONTACT: Michael Blowen, (502) 863-1775, michael@oldfriendsequine.org

Breeders’ Cup Wagering Available during National Horse Show

Attend the Nation’s Top Horse Show While Betting on the Nation’s Top Thoroughbred Racing

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 27, 2014) – Off-site wagering for the 2014 Breeders’ Cup races will be available at the National Horse Show at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena on Friday, Oct. 31, 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 1, 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Both walk-up and drive-thru wagering will be available in the parking lot adjacent to the arena, and signs will be posted directing guests along the way. Park admission is not required and parking will be free.

Guests are invited to stay and enjoy the National Horse Show, America’s oldest indoor horse show, both Friday and Saturday, which is taking place at the park Oct. 28 to Nov. 2. Admission to the show is free both days that Breeders’ Cup wagering is offered until 6 p.m., then is $8 in advance/$10 at the door on Friday night and $16 in advance/$20 at the door on Saturday night after 6 p.m. Children 12 and under are free.

Founded in 1883 at the original Madison Square Garden, the National Horse Show is firmly established as a major fixture on the national and international sports and social event calendars, and has been held at the Kentucky Horse Park since 2011. Show jumping elite from around the globe will be competing at the event for numerous prestigious titles, including the ASPCA/NHSAA Alfred B. Maclay National Championship, and more than $750,000 in cash prizes, the biggest prize money on the United States indoor tour.

For more information about the National Horse Show, or ticket information for Thursday or Sunday, call 859-608-3709 or visit www.NHS.org. Media inquiries for the National Horse Show should be directed to 561-753-3389. For information on the Kentucky Horse Park, call 859-259-4200 or visit www.KyHorsePark.com.

The Kentucky Horse Park is a working horse farm/theme park and equine competition facility dedicated to man’s relationship with the horse. The park is an agency of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet and hosted more than 800,000 visitors and campers, as well as 18,400 competition horses in more than 200 special events and horse shows in 2013. The park is home to the National Horse Center, which comprises more than 30 national and regional equine organizations. Located at Exit 120, Interstate 75, just north of Lexington, the Kentucky Horse Park is the place to get close to horses. Information about the park’s programs and activities can be on-line at www.KyHorsePark.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.

Lisa Jackson
Kentucky Horse Park

It Is with Great Sadness We Say Farewell to a Friend

Dear Friends,

It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to a special part of our family. World champion and legendary racehorse, Cigar, had his final ride to the Rainbow Bridge yesterday. His impressive career included two-time Horse of the Year, a 16 race winning streak, and being inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame.

Besides all of his wins, it was the relationship that we had with Cigar that enriched our lives. He was so full of character, extremely intelligent, and had command presence. He loved being in the limelight and loved what he did. He truly loved to race. My late husband, Allen Paulson, and I had the ride of a lifetime with Cigar.

He lived the last several years in retirement at the Kentucky Horse Park where his adoring fans could meet him in person. We thank everyone who have watched him race and have sent your condolences and stories to us. We are sad to lose our friend, but we couldn’t be more proud of the 24 years we had with him. A big thank you to Steve Haskin for the beautiful tribute that he wrote. Ride on into the sunset, Cigar!

Madeleine Pickens


Haskin: Farewell to Cigar

By: Steve Haskin
October 8, 2014

Racing lost one its all-time greats with the passing of Cigar. As a tribute, I am reprinting some of my most memorable experiences with this magnificent horse.

Garden Party

During a Blood-Horse online chat about five years ago, someone asked me what was my most special moment in racing? Well, needless to say, there are dozens to choose from. But one that ranks right up there at the top did not even occur at a racetrack — or a training center or a breeding farm. It occurred at, of all places, Madison Square Garden.

Shortly after Cigar’s retirement, Madeleine Paulson announced that Cigar would be honored and paraded at the National Horse Show at the Garden on Nov. 2, 1996. She had a close association with the Equestrian world and wanted to show Cigar off to her “horsey” friends and to a whole new audience.

No one knew how they were going to react, not being followers of Thoroughbred racing. But they were horse lovers first and foremost. Mott was not exactly enamored with the idea of vanning Cigar into the heart of Manhattan, and for good reason. It surely had never been done before and the thought of bringing a champion racehorse into this strange environment with masses of people, taxi cabs, and blaring horns seemed absurd. Most everyone else was skeptical to say the least. But Madeleine was determined to pull it off and actually arranged for Cigar to have a police escort and for Seventh Avenue to be closed to traffic for approximately 20 blocks.

Madison Square Garden went all out to pull this off. They invited comedian Bill Cosby, members of the New York Rangers and Knicks, and brought in the Knicks’ cheerleaders and the Budweiser Clydesdales to lead Cigar’s van through the streets of the city to the Garden.

Cigar traveled from Belmont Park to Manhattan in a full-sized van, with a huge color mural on both sides depicting the horse in action. Next to the mural in large blue print with white stars was the name “Cigar.” Above it against a red background were the words “Champion and Horse of the Year,” and below it, “America’s Racehorse.”

The van met up with the Knicks cheerleaders, the Clydesdales, and other participants on a quiet side street several blocks from the Garden. There, the proceedings were organized by MSG officials. Lining the street were a number of fans, several holding posters and banners. One of the posters read: “To the Great Cigar. Thanks for the Memories.” Outside the Garden, groups of school children gathered, waiting to get a glimpse of the great Cigar.

Inside the arena, more than 16,000 people awaited Cigar’s entrance prior to the Horse Show, having no idea what to expect.

By now, Seventh Avenue was closed, and it was an eerie sight looking down one of New York City’s busiest avenues and seeing nothing, not a single car in both directions. When everyone was organized the Cigar parade commenced. With bagpipers, the Knicks cheerleaders, the New York City Mounted Police Corps, and the Clydesdales leading the way, the procession turned down Seventh Avenue to the quizzical looks of passersby, who gawked at the huge, ornately decorated horse van and its odd entourage.

At the Garden, Jerry Bailey posed for photos with the children. Finally, the van arrived and Bailey, decked out in Allen Paulson’s silks, hopped aboard and gave Cigar several reassuring pats on the neck. Looking east on 33rd Street, it was quite a sight seeing the van with the Empire State Building as a backdrop. Cigar peered out at the strange surroundings and then was led into the bowels of America’s most famous arena by Mott and assistant trainer Tim Jones.

At 2 p.m., Bill Cosby came riding in on a horse. After dismounting, he held a microphone directly in front of ringmaster Barry Kiger’s coach horn. As a musical crescendo filled the Garden, the crowd erupted in applause in anticipation of Cigar’s entrance.

When Cigar made his appearance, with Bailey aboard, everyone rose and saluted the champion. Bailey then rose slightly in the saddle, and Cigar, as if on cue, broke into a graceful canter worthy of any champion show horse. The crowd went wild. With Cigar striding majestically around the arena as if part of the Horse Show, the public address announcer bellowed: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Cigar!”

Bailey then brought Cigar to the middle of the arena, where he was draped in a blanket of red, white, and blue flowers and then presented with baskets of carrots and apples by members of the Rangers and Knicks, including Hall of Fame Ranger Rod Gilbert. After the speeches, Bailey dismounted and Cigar was led around the arena by Mott, as a flurry of flashbulbs popped all around the Garden.

Mott turned the horse over to Jones, who continued to lead him around. Then the lights in the arena went dark, and a single spotlight shone down on Cigar. When a solitary trumpet began playing “Auld Lang Syne,” I have to admit I lost it. Soon after, the entire band joined in, adding to the emotional impact and ending the proceedings with a flourish. Standing on the floor of the arena in the dark, I tried to wipe away the tears before the lights came back on. When they did, I turned around, and almost everyone in the seats was wiping their eyes. That was the single most emotional moment I’ve ever experienced in racing, perhaps in part because Cigar, those closest to him, and myself, were so far removed from the world of racing that the moment transcended the sport and seemed surreal.

Afterward, Jones said, “It was all I could do not to break down. The whole experience brought me to tears. I really believe he knew what was going on and he put on quite a show for everyone. When they played that song it was a joyous moment. But it was also very sad because I knew this was really the end.”

A night in Dubai

It was Jones who had accompanied Cigar to Dubai and supervised his early training for the inaugural Dubai World Cup. I was there providing lead coverage of the event for the Daily Racing Form. The Maktoums put on a show that was unlike anything ever seen before, from the outrageous party in the desert to the raucous rock concert to the dazzling pre-race festivities. On race night, a salmon pink and golden sunset, combined with the floodlights from Nad al Sheba, illuminated the ornate mosques off in the distance, making them sparkle in the twilight. To a Westerner, it was a scene right out of Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

What no one realized was that shortly before the World Cup, word spread quickly throughout the media tent that Cigar was going to be scratched due to a foot problem. Everyone waited for the official word, but it never came. It was only when the horses began walking to the paddock from the barn area and I looked through my binoculars and saw Cigar that the rumor was officially quashed.

I watched the race at the top of the small grandstand with Ray Paulick, then the editor of the Blood-Horse. When Cigar battled back in deep stretch after appearing to be beaten to win by a half-length over fellow American Soul of the Matter, Ray and I jumped up and down like school kids and hugged each other, and then tore through the crowd down to the winner’s circle. Needless to say, that was another surreal moment provided by Cigar, one that no one had ever experienced before. Cigar had come to Dubai and conquered, thus assuring the success of the Dubai World Cup.

Jet setting

But it was earlier that year at the 1996 Eclipse Awards dinner at the Hotel Del Coronado, just across San Diego Bay, that I really became close to Cigar. Not only was I assigned to cover the event, I was also flying from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale that same night on Allen Paulson’s Gulfstream 4 jet, which at the time held the speed record for traveling around the world. The following day, Cigar was scheduled to make his 6-year-old debut in the Donn Handicap.

The other passengers were Allen and Madeleine Paulson, Madeleine’s beloved Jack Russell terrier Oliver, Bill and Tina Mott, Jerry and Suzee Bailey, and my DRF colleague, the legendary Joe Hirsch. My first thought was, if the plane went down I’d be a mere footnote at the bottom of the story.

Normally, Paulson would fly the plane himself, but because of the overnight flight, scheduled to arrive in Fort Lauderdale at about 5:30 a.m. and the big day ahead, he decided to hire a crew and go as a passenger. After boarding the plane, Paulson undid his suspenders, rolled up his sleeves, and took a seat in the front row. Soon after takeoff, Madeleine, reverting to her days as a flight attendant for Pan Am, took drink orders and put out plates of cakes and pastries and platters of food.

Mott and Bailey sat up front handicapping the Saturday card. Mott turned to me and said, “Well, what do you think, Steve? This is a tough assignment, but I guess somebody’s gotta do it.”

About 100 miles west of Tampa, the plane was scheduled to fly over Checkpoint Cigar, for which the horse was named. “Do you want to go up to the cockpit when we fly over it?” Madeleine asked me. “You can go up there anytime you want.”

After beginning to doze off, I looked up through half-closed eyes to see Madeleine covering me with a blanket, bless her heart.

When I awoke, the lights were off and everyone was asleep. Although Cigar would be a heavy favorite in the Donn, Mott was cautiously optimistic. Here he was going to Cigar’s debut and having to stare at the Horse of the Year Eclipse Award trophy that was sitting right in front of him. “I don’t like this scenario of getting all these Eclipse Awards, and everyone is happy, and then, all of a sudden it’s D-Day again in less than 24 hours,” he said earlier. “We’re setting ourselves up for a bunch of long faces.”

At 4:20 a.m., Paulson began to stir. He walked to the back of the plane and told me were getting close to Checkpoint Cigar. About 55 miles from Sarasota I made my way to the cockpit, having to gingerly step over Oliver. The view of the Florida coastline was magnificent, as if we were in a simulator. Although the lights kept getting closer it seemed as if we weren’t moving. “Isn’t that beautiful?” the pilot asked. “It’s like a big video screen. We’re flying 80% the speed of sound, but this plane flies faster than this.”

We quickly passed over the darkness of the Everglades and descended on the lights of Eastern Florida. The landing was smooth as silk, and after the plane came to a halt, Paulson got up, put his suspenders back on, rolled down his sleeves, and said to Mott, “Ready to go to work, Bill?”

Several yards from the plane, Paulson’s limo was waiting to take us all to our respective hotels. As I stepped down from the plane, Paulson reminded me, “Well, you just flew in the fastest plane in the world.”

It was only appropriate, because later that day I’d be watching the fastest horse in the world.

Back home

One of my fondest memories of Cigar was the day he arrived at Belmont Park following his historic victory in the inaugural Dubai World Cup. He hadn’t felt a cool breeze in his face in four months, having been in Florida and then Dubai. Now he was back home, walking up Secretariat Avenue, passing rows of trees and grassy paddocks, and hearing the occasional crowing of a rooster and the chirping of sparrows, as a brisk April wind ruffled his mane.

Judging from the way he pulled assistant trainer Simon Bray and groom Seth Gregory while returning to his old home, Barn 25, after 36 hours in quarantine, there was no doubt he was happy to be back in familiar surroundings.

Although he had lost a little weight and a bit of shine to his coat, it didn’t seem as if the long trip to Dubai, the hot, humid days in the desert, and his gut-wrenching victory in the Dubai World Cup took too much out of him.

Leaving the quarantine barn, Cigar continually gnawed away on his lip chain. The farther he walked the more on the muscle he became, bouncing along on his toes and trying to prop on occasion. This was the first blast of cool air to hit him in months and he was loving every minute of it.

“Man, this horse is pumped; he’s really pulling on me,” Bray said.

As they turned down one of the horse paths, a van blocked the way and Bray and Gregory had to walk Cigar in circles until the van driver could be located. He finally emerged from a nearby barn, and as he got into his van, a truck pulled alongside. The driver of the truck opened the window and shouted to the van driver: “You gotta move that van for the mighty Ceeegar, the greatest horse of all time.”

When Cigar arrived at Mott’s barn, he was reluctant to go in his stall, balking several times. That was the last place he wanted to be, but finally he gave in. “There you go, buddy, back in stall 3,” Bray said to him as he removed his lip chain and gave him a friendly whack on the rear end.

Once free, Cigar let it all out, rolling several times in the straw, grunting and squealing. After getting up and pawing at the ground, he charged the webbing and thrust his head out the stall door, scattering whoever was standing nearby.

As Bray and Gregory returned to the quarantine barn to get Cigar’s pony, Snowball, who had gained fame himself while in Dubai, Cigar stood at his stall door with his head up and ears cocked, staring out the barn window and up and down the shed with that familiar white eye.

“You got your favorite window and your favorite stall back,” said day watchman Jimmy Camic. “I’m just glad he’s back safe, thank God. I’ll sit here with a two-by-four if I have to, and God forbid if any s.o.b. gives me a hard time.”

Soon, Gregory’s parents and brother arrived at the barn to take their son back to a hero’s welcome in their hometown of Garrattsville, N.Y., 16 miles from Cooperstown. Gregory had accompanied Cigar to Dubai when the horse’s regular groom, Juan Campuzano, was unable to get his visa processed in time.

“Seth, the guys at the pharmacy all said to send their congratulations,” Gregory’s mother told him. “I was in there yesterday and they were so excited. They can’t wait to see you.”

“I don’t know why I’m such a hero,” Gregory said. “He did it all.”

But Cigar had a way of making heroes out of all those close to him.

Attention, shoppers

Tom Durkin’s voice bounced off the walls in resounding fashion. “Cigar! Cigar makes his move and he sweeps to the lead with a dramatic rush… the invincible, the incomparable, the unbeatable Cigar.”

This historic call of the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic wasn’t being heard at a racetrack or a simulcasting facility or any place even remotely associated with racing. On this occasion, three months after the race, pant legs shook, shirt buttons popped, and ties stiffened at the sound of Durkin’s unforgettable call. You see, the race was being shown in the men’s department at Sears in Lawrenceville, N.J.

Following the race, Cigar’s presence seemed to be everywhere – from department stores, helping to sell team apparel, to Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsman of the Year” issue, to GQ, to Cigar Aficionado magazine, to a full page ad by Macanudo Cigar Co. in the New York Times, which read: “From One Cigar to another. Macanudo salutes the winner of the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic on his 12th consecutive victory.” The cost of the ad: $58,000.

The world loves perfection, and in 1995, Cigar was the epitome of perfection, as he traveled some 12 miles of racetrack real estate, covering nearly 10,000 miles by van and plane, while visiting six racetracks in six different states. Whether on fast, wet-fast, or muddy tracks, all Cigar’s rivals saw of him were the black and gray streaks of his tail. Among those inhaling Cigar’s smoke were the winners of the 1995 Kentucky Derby, Belmont, Travers, Santa Anita Handicap, Pacific Classic, Whitney Handicap, and the Juddmonte International and Eclipse Stakes in England, as well as past winners of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Santa Anita Handicap, Pimlico Special, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Oaklawn Handicap.

And through it all, Bill Mott was the perfect host, granting interviews to anyone who asked and handling everything with class. He even put my then 12-year-old daughter up on his pony and led her around the shedrow and outside the barn. While the entire Cigar experience and the 16-race winning streak would have stressed out many trainers, Mott might as well have been sitting on a rocking chair back in Mobridge, South Dakota whittling away on a piece of hickory. If ever a horse and trainer fit each other it was Cigar and Mott.

Saying goodbye

It was Cigar’s final race, and the script called for him to go out a winner in the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic. But a nose and a head separated him from the storybook ending. The sun had just begun to descend behind Woodbine’s clubhouse turn as Cigar walked off the track for the last time. Shafts of light beamed down on him from an amber sky, creating a setting that was meant for a triumphant farewell. But Cigar’s weary legs and cracked feet, that had carried him some 25,000 miles across the United States and to Dubai, could not carry him those final few inches.

Back at the barn, Cigar stood facing the back of his stall, as if he knew he had lost. Allen and Madeleine Paulson stopped by for a final visit before heading off to dinner, but Mott remained. For several minutes, he stared almost hypnotically into Cigar’s stall. When he spoke, his voice couldn’t hide the emotions that were obviously building up inside him. This was no time to be dwelling on defeats or having any regrets that Cigar’s career did not end in triumph. The only images Mott was seeing as he stared into the stall were of cheering crowds and magnificent victories.

“There’s nothing I can say about Cigar that can tell you how I feel about him and the whole experience,” Mott said in a quiet monotone voice. “There’s no reason that getting beat a short head would make me feel any differently about him. I’d be pretty damn greedy if I did or if I had any ill feelings about anything. When we decided to run him again this year I knew as a trainer that trying to have a repeat year was going to be a tough task come Breeders’ Cup time. He just lost that little step, that little turn of foot, and that’s been the difference. Before, he could have overcome having to go five-wide. Today, he just couldn’t… he couldn’t overcome it.”

Just then, 82-year-old Georgia Ridder, owner of the victorious Alphabet Soup, came over to Mott, who congratulated her.

She replied, “Congratulations on the greatest horse of many years. It was just our luck today.”

“Well, you had a good day and I’m happy for you,” Mott said. “I hope you have many many more.”

So ended the remarkable career of Cigar. In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway wrote: “But did thee feel the earth move?”

Cigar’s greatness was felt as much as it was seen. Just ask anyone who was there when Cigar rocked the grandstands at Arlington Park, Suffolk Downs, and Belmont Park. Just ask anyone who was there when Cigar made the sands of Dubai shake. Just ask anyone who was there when Cigar jolted the hallowed walls of Madison Square Garden.

Although Cigar’s accomplishments and statistics speak of greatness, they are just one aspect of his legacy. He took the torch passed to him by Holy Bull and made thousands of new racing fans around the world. He made believers out of skeptics. He made poets and artists out of 7-year-olds and 70-year-olds. He made people cheer and he made people cry.

But most of all, he made the earth move.

Read more on BloodHorse.com: http://cs.bloodhorse.com/blogs/horse-racing-steve-haskin/archive/2014/10/08/haskin-farewell-to-cigar.aspx#ixzz3FaAokkQc

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