The 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic
The 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic had a true headliner for the $3 million race at Belmont Park. Cigar had won 11 straight races, nine that year and would go into the gate as the 3-5 favorite with Jerry Bailey aboard. But Cigar had never run on an off track, and the night before the race, his barn was completely flooded out. His trainer, Bill Mott said, “we were scooping water out.” The morning of the race, Cigar went to the training track and went to so well.
Cigar broke from the outside 10 post in the field of 11, and “it looked like he was shot out of a slingshot,” said Mott. The pace was modest with a pair of 50-1 long shots leading the way through six furlongs. But Cigar would show his strength, speed and stamina as the incomparable and invincible champion. Jerry Bailey cut Cigar loose with three furlongs to go, making his move and sweeping to the lead with a dramatic rush. Kicking mud at the others, Cigar stormed down the stretch and roared to the finish for his 12th straight win, covering the muddy 1 ¼ miles in a Breeders’ Cup record 1:59.58 to win by 2 ½ lengths.
Cigar paid $3.40, $3.60 and $2.90. But when 51-1 long shot L’Carriere held for 2nd to return $22, it also paid $85 on a $2 exacta. Unaccounted For finished 3rd as the second wagering choice and the $2 trifecta returned $277.00.
The Classic victory by Cigar clinched the title of Horse of the Year and completed one of the most dominating seasons in modern racing. Jockey Jerry Bailey also won his third straight Breeders’ Cup Classic and four of the last five. He lavished praise on his horse, the grandson of the great Seattle Slew, as he rode back to the winner’s circle to lusty cheering from the crowd of more than 37,000 at Belmont Park.
“He overcame everything,” Bailey said, “He overcame the wet track, the wait in the paddock, the 10 hole in the starting gate.”
He also overcame all the distractions that come to a star in the spotlight. Cigar had never raced or even trained on a muddy track, but he overcame everything and did it with grace and regal bearing.
In the process, Cigar became the first colt or stallion to go through an entire year undefeated since Spectacular Bid won all nine of his races in 1980. His $1.5 million take in the Classic helped Cigar break the earnings record for one year, bringing his total to $4,819,800.
The sport that had been hungering for a hero horse got one on a day that began with stormy weather but ended with sunshine and memorable performances.