Cigar signs off in Kentucky

USA racing legend Cigar has died following surgery for severe osteoarthritis in his neck.  He was 24.

A resident at the Kentucky Horse Park since 1999, he will be buried alongside fellow Hall of Fame champions Forego, John Henry and Alysheba.

Cigar (Palace Music – Solar Slew by Seattle Slew) was awarded USA Horse of the Year honours in 1995 and 1996 when he went on a winning streak that stretched to 16 consecutive victories.

Bred and campaigned by the late Allen Paulson, he won at Hollywood Park as a three year-old before relocating to trainer Bill Mott in New York.  He started an enthralling unbeaten run with an 8 length victory at Aqueduct in October 1994 and added the NYRA Mile by 7 lengths with Jerry Bailey aboard for the first time – the pair would never again be separated on the racetrack.

Cigar started 1995 with an allowance at Gulfstream before defeating Horse of the Year Holy Bull by 5 lengths in the Donn Hcp.

The wins kept piling up as the year progressed as Cigar took his show on the road from coast to coast, scoring with relative ease in the Gulfstream Park Hcp by 7 lengths, Oaklawn Hcp by 2 lengths, Pimlico Special by one length, Massachusetts Hcp by 5 lengths, Hollywood Gold Cup by 3 lengths, Woodward Stakes by 2 lengths and Jockey Club Gold Cup by one length.

Cigar’s 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic victory broke new ground on a cold, blustery day at Belmont Park when he emulated Spectacular Bid in 1980 to win the season-ending championship after an undefeated year.

His title defence in 1996 kicked off with a second victory in the Donn Hcp prior to travelling half way across the world to claim the inaugural running of the Dubai World Cup.

Given adequate time to recuperate, Cigar returned to action to take the Massachusetts Hcp for a second time and, by this point, he was just one away from equalling Citation’s modern-day record of 16 wins in a row.

Racetracks across the country were doing everything possible to entice Team Cigar to bring the great horse to their track

Arlington Park in Chicago stepped up to the plate by presenting the $1 million Citation Challenge.  An odds-on favourite in a field that also included the leading three-year-old Unbridled’s Song, Cigar did not did disappoint with an off-the-pace 3 length victory.

The stage was now set to break Citation’s record and the race chosen was the Pacific Classic at Del Mar.  A then-record crowd of more than 44,000, as well as millions on national television, tuned in to see history in the making.

Unfortunately for the large audience, both on and off track, the streak ended when Dare and Go opened up in the stretch to win by 3 lengths.  Cigar trudged home 7 lengths ahead of third-placed Siphon.

Cigar got back on the winning track a month later in the Woodward at Belmont, however, the champion concluded his career with two more losses, albeit narrow ones, in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic at Woodbine.

After 19 wins and 9 placings from 33 starts, he was retired amid great fanfare but proved infertile at stud.

“Apart from experiencing arthritis-related health issues over the past six months, Cigar was otherwise in outstanding physical and mental condition,” Kentucky Horse Park director Kathy Hopkins said.  “We are heartbroken.”