By Michael Gareth Johnson
The Cigar Mile is one of the most prestigious races in North America, pitting some of the best thoroughbreds in the world against each other in a one-mile test on the dirt track at Aqueduct Racetrack. It is a race that often creates stars.
This year’s running didn’t disappoint, as 5-year-old Patternrecognition hustled out to the lead and then held off seven challengers to capture the Grade 1 stake for trainer Chad Brown and jockey Jose Ortiz. The victory is a little bit of redemption for Patternrecognition, who has had an up-and-down career because of injuries.
“Because he’s had so many interruptions in his schedule, I was always trying to bridge him to a longer race off a sprint and it was always hard to get there because he always had a setback. Finally, he got very sound to where I could train him consistently and get him out to that mile distance,” Brown said. “This horse is a rare horse. He’s got that speed and he can carry it. I’m very proud of the judgment Jose [Ortiz] used today. I left it up to him and the fractions concerned me a touch, but this horse showed his heart.”
Earlier in the day, the crowds were treated to a brilliant display in the Grade 2 Remsen from several talented 2-year-olds, who are now likely to be pointed to the Kentucky Derby in May. Maximus Mischief outkicked Network Effect in the stretch to win by 2 ¼ lengths in the 1 ⅛-mile contest. The race was part of the official “Road to the Kentucky Derby Series,” with 10 points being awarded to Maximus Mischief, four points to Network Effect and two points to Tax, who finished third. The top-20 points earners will be entered into the Kentucky Derby.
The day of racing also featured a stunning breakout performance by Positive Spirit in the Grade 2 Demoiselle, for top 2-year-old fillies. And in the Grade 3 Go for Wand, Marley’s Freedom held off a game challenge from Come Dancing to claim honors for Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and trainer Bob Baffert.
John Velazquez Captures 6,000th win
Last Friday, Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez earned his 6,000th career win in North America, riding Singapore Trader to victory in the fifth race at Aqueduct. A mainstay of New York’s racing circuit, Velazquez has won practically every big race in the United States, including two Kentucky Derby wins and two wins in the Belmont Stakes. He has also captured 15 Breeders’ Cup wins and earned more than $390 million in purses during his career. Velazquez’s first win in North America also took place at Aqueduct, on March 30, 1990, aboard My Brother Jay.