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The Dash that was Cigar

“…He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
that they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth…” –Linda Ellis, The Dash

The Dash Poem by Linda Ellis is appropriate for any funeral. The dash between April 18, 1990 and October 7, 2014 is the life of the Hall of Fame racehorse, Cigar.

Cigar was foaled in Maryland on Country Life Farm. He was the son of the sprinter Palace Music and the Seattle Slew mare, Solar Seattle. He had multiple half siblings, but none had amounted to much. Cigar would go on to do great things. Bred by the couple Allen and Madeleine Paulson, Allen Paulson was given Cigar by his wife, who wanted the filly Eliza, who went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and be the Champion Juvenile Filly in 1992.

Cigar Horse

While the NYRA mile was not Cigar’s grade one debut, it was his first grade one win.
Photo: Steve Faust, pixbysteve.smugmug.com

Cigar was not raced as a two-year-old. Original trainer Alex Hassinger Jr. did not click with Cigar. At age three, Hassinger tried Cigar on both dirt and turf races, but Cigar didn’t show much potential as a grade one horse. Cigar did place in grade two and three competition when he ran the Ascot Handicap and the Volante Handicap. In grade one company in the Hollywood Derby, Cigar would finish well off the board in 11th. Hassinger kept him mainly in allowance level races throughout the year though. Cigar would close his three-year-old season with only $89,175, which he earned in nine races.

Cigar did return as a four-year-old, but not under the direction of Alex Hassinger Jr. Cigar was shipped to the East Coast to train with Bill Mott. Mott would not start Cigar until July of 1994. Mott kept Cigar in allowance company for most of the year, as Cigar was fairly inconsistent. He did however, flash some brilliance in his 5th start of the season. He would make mince meat of an allowance field at Aqueduct. He beat the second place horse by eight solid lengths. This gave trainer Bill Mott the confidence he needed to enter Cigar into the G1 NYRA Mile at Aqueduct in November. This allowance would also be the beginning of something great. It was the first win in 16 consecutive wins for Cigar.

While the NYRA mile was not Cigar’s grade one debut, it was his first grade one win. He would again make the field look like allowance horses, but this time, he did it to top company. He finished seven lengths in front of second place horse, Devil His Due. In this race, Cigar also beats horses like Bertrando and Harlan.

Cigar would return in an allowance race in January as a five-year-old. He again took the field on a ride to the wire. This season would see Cigar dominate the older horse division. He would win eight grade one races, including the Donn Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup, The Jockey Club Gold Cup, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, among others. In ten starts, Cigar would win eight grade one races, one listed handicap, and an allowance, which made a perfect season for the son of Palace Music. This was reason to why he earned year-end honors of Older Male and Horse of the Year.

Cigar would come back as a six-year-old, to continue his winning streak. He once again won the Donn Handicap (G1), and took his show on the road in March. He was representing America in the first Dubai World Cup. He would hold off Soul of the Matter by less than a length, and would continue his streak at 14 straight wins. He was approaching Citation’s win streak of 16 straight wins.

Cigar returned home to win two more before the table’s turned on him. He was upset in the Pacific Classic by long shot Dare and Go. Cigar wouldn’t get to pass Citation for most wins in a row, although he did tie the record. He would come back to win the Woodward, but finished second and third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Cigar lost his last two races, yet still was honors with Older Male Champion and a second straight Horse of the Year title. He retired to Coolmore Stud as the leading money earner of all time with $9,999,815. After beginning his stallion career, it was found to be that Cigar was infertile. He was sent to the Kentucky Horse Park to participate in the Hall of Champions, and live out his days.

Recently, Cigar had been experiencing problems with his hind end, back, and neck. It was eventually decided to try surgery. Cigar was not comfortable in his own body, and something had to be done. Cigar went in for surgery at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital across for the Kentucky Horse Park. Cigar made it through surgery, but was unable to survive afterward.

Cigar was and still is a champion. He was the Horse of the 90’s. Cigar is in the Horse Racing Hall of Fame and ranked 18th in the top 100 Thoroughbred Racehorses of the 20th Century. Cigar also has a stakes race named in his honor. The NYRA Mile was renamed the Cigar Mile in 1997. There is also a life-size statue of the stallion at Gulfstream Park, where he won an allowance, two Donn Handicap’s (G1) and the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G1).

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