Cigar | Horse Profile

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Cigar

There are only so many horses that capture the imaginations of an entire country during their competitive career. Cigar is one of them, as his pursuit of the most consecutive victories in top-level U.S. racing was one of the great sports stories in the mid-1990’s. He not only gained a reputation for his unbelievable spirit, but also secured the most winnings of any horse in the history of the sport.

Born on April 18, 1990 in Maryland, Cigar was initially owned by Madeleine A. Paulson, who would eventually trade him to her husband, aviation magnate Allen Paulson. The couple named the horse Cigar after a navigational intersection for airborne vehicles.

The horse who would turn out to be one of the most exhilarating of his generation would have very humble beginnings. Beginning his career on dirt as a 3-year-old, Cigar won one of two starts, before he was switched to turf, which his sire Palace Music excelled on. In his next 11 starts, all on turf, Cigar won once and earned two graded stakes placings, but looked to be going nowhere.

Nobody could’ve expected what happened next.

Bill Mott, who was given Cigar as a 4-year-old, gave him four races on turf, with two third-place finishes the best he could do. Mott then decided to give him another go on dirt in an Aqueduct allowance on October 28, 1994. The result was a devastating eight-length win. A step up to grade I company in the NYRA Mile next start was no problem.

The 1995 season was an incredible campaign by Cigar, and one that completely took the country by storm. No matter where he competed, Cigar was untouchable from coast to coast in 10 starts, eight of them grade I. His Donn Handicap victory was overshadowed by the breakdown of Holy Bull while the pair dueled for the lead, but Cigar would dominate the rest of the year, his victories including the Gulfstream Park Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, Woodward Stakes, Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Cigar continued his rampage to the winner’s circle in the 1996 Donn Handicap before winning the inaugural Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest race. Returning home, Cigar had now picked up 14 straight victories and was quickly encroaching on the 16-win mark set by Citation in 1950.

Winning the 1996 Massachusetts Handicap put Cigar on the doorstep of history, and Arlington Park officials decided to sanction a special event known as the Arlington Citation Challenge Invitational to commemorate Cigar’s attempt at equaling Citation’s record. Cigar would beat notable combatants like Dramatic Gold and Unbridled’s Song on route to his 16 consecutive win.

Cigar couldn’t break Citation’s mark, being caught in a speed duel before being overtaken in the 1996 Pacific Classic by Dare and Go. He bounced back with victory in the 1996 Woodward Stakes before losing the Jockey Club Gold Cup to Skip Away, and then finishing third behind Alphabet Soup in the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Cigar won the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year and Champion Older House in both 1995 and 1996. He finished his career with a 19-4-5 record in 33 starts and career earnings of $9,999,815, which set a record for Thoroughbred racing at that time. In 2002, Cigar was inducted in to the Hall of Fame.

A life-sized statue of Cigar was delivered to Gulfstream Park in 1997. At the turn of the century, Cigar was named the Horse of the Decade for the 1990’s.

Cigar proved infertile at stud and spent his retirement years at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington until his death in October 2014.

More on Cigar:

REILLY: Cigar Mile sparks memories of Hall of Famer

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