Allen E. Paulson
William I. Mott (at age 4)
Cigar, foaled April 18, 1990 at Country Life Farm near Bel Air, Maryland, is a Hall of Fame Thoroughbred racehorse who in 1995 and 1996 became the first American racehorse racing against top-class competition to win 16 races in a row since the Triple Crown winner Citation did it in 1948 and 1950. He is also the 2nd greatest money earner in North American history. A product of Maryland's oldest thoroughbred breeding farm, Cigar is the grandson of The Minstrel who was a son of the greatest sire of the second half of the 20th century, Northern Dancer. Out of the mare Solar Slew, who in turn was a daughter of the 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, Cigar had the credentials to become a great race horse, but it took a few years for his greatness to materialize.
Madeleine A. Paulson was the original owner of Cigar. In his 2003 book, Legacies of the Turf, noted race historian Edward L. Bowen wrote that according to Paulson family banter, she traded Cigar to husband Allen for the filly, Eliza, the 1992 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and that year's Eclipse Award choice for American Champion Two-Year-Old Filly.
Cigar was named not for the tobacco product, but for a navigational intersection for airplanes. Owner Allen Paulson was a major figure in American aviation and who had owned the Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation which manufactured the famous Gulfstream private business jets. He named many of his horses after the five letter long names given to intersections on aeronautical navigational charts.
Race Record at 3
Cigar did not race as a two year old, and under his first trainer, Alex Hassinger, Jr., he won twice in nine starts at age 3, but failed to win in stakes competition. He did finish second in the Grade III Volante Handicap at the Oak Tree Racing Association fall meeting at Santa Anita, and third in the Grade III Ascot Handicap at Bay Meadows. During this period, Hassigner switched him from dirt to grass but the horse remained a low-grade stakes / high class allowance horse, not giving much hint of what was to come. As a 3 year old, Cigar earned $89,175.
The Switch to Bill Mott's Barn
The following year, his owner had Cigar shipped to an east-coast trainer, Bill Mott, who gave him the first half of the year off, only bringing him back to racing in July. Cigar managed third place finishes in allowance races at Saratoga Race Course and Belmont Park. It was decided to give Cigar one more try racing on dirt, in another allowance race at Aqueduct Racetrack at 1-mile (1.6 km).
Cigar won that allowance race by 8 lengths on October 28, 1994. He would not lose again for almost two years.
Off Cigar's dominating performance in the allowance race, Mott immediately stepped him way up in class and ran him in the Grade I NYRA Mile (now the Cigar Mile Handicap), against the top New York stakes winner Devil His Due. Cigar dominated again, winning by 7 lengths. This concluded his four year old campaign.
As a four year old, Cigar finished up with 2 wins in 6 starts and earnings of $180,838.
Cigar started off 1995 in a 1 1/16 mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park in January, which he won by 2 lengths. He then faced the champion Holy Bull in the Donn Handicap at 1 1/8 miles. Holy Bull was favored based on his dominant 1994 campaign, but, tragically, broke down on the backstretch. Cigar won the race easily, but little attention was paid to the victory due to the breakdown of Holy Bull. The streak stood at 4.
Cigar then ran once more at Gulfstream, in the Gulfstream Park Handicap at 1 1/4 miles. He won by 7 1/2 lengths. He then went to Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas to face 1994 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Concern in the Oaklawn Handicap at 1 1/8 miles. He won by 2 1/2 lengths in a good time, 1:47 1/5.
Next was the Pimlico Special at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore at 1 3/16 miles; Cigar once again defeated Devil His Due and Concern, running a very fast 1:53 3/5. The streak was now at 7.
Next was the Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs north of Boston at 1 1/8 miles; Cigar won again in 1:48 3/5.
Many great horses from the east, such as Kelso and Seattle Slew, suffered losses on the faster, harder California racing surfaces. The Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park thus posed a particular challenge; the California track also assembled one of the greatest fields in the storied race's history, including Santa Anita Handicap and Pacific Classic Stakes winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up Best Pal, Pacific Classic Stakes winner Tinner's Way, Santa Anita Handicap winner Urgent Request, and Concern, who had showed his fitness with an impressive win in the Gold Cup's major preparatory race, the Californian Stakes. Nonetheless, Cigar was the odds-on favorite, and he barely broke a sweat. Carrying top weight of 126 pounds, Cigar was kept on the outside all the way by jockey Jerry Bailey and won by 3 1/2 lengths in 1:59 2/5.
Cigar then went to Belmont Park for 2 preparatory races and then the year end championship race, the Breeders' Cup Classic. Cigar won them all; the Woodward Stakes at 1 1/8 miles, the Jockey Club Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles, and the Breeders' Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles in stakes record time of 1:59.58. He had completed a perfect season, 10 for 10, with earnings of $4,819,800. His streak stood at 12, and he was named Horse of the Year as well as American Champion Older Male Horse.
Cigar then set his sights on a new race, the inaugural Dubai World Cup, which was to be the world's richest horse race with a $5,000,000 purse. Rarely had great horses been able to travel to another continent, duplicate their form, and then return in good shape. Cigar started 1996 with a repeat win in the Donn Handicap, and then headed over 6,000 miles (9,700 km) to Dubai. In Dubai, Cigar gamely held off Soul of the Matter to win by less than 1 length; he was now the world's richest racehorse, and his streak stood at 14.
Cigar came back to seek a repeat win in the Massachusetts Handicap; the largest crowd in the history of Suffolk Downs turned out to see him. He would have to pass another test of greatness, carrying 130 pounds in the race. He won again, and had now won 15 races in a row, the longest winning streak for a major American stakes horse since Citation won 16 in a row in 1948 and 1950.
Arlington Park carded a special race, the Arlington Citation Challenge, for Cigar to attempt to tie Citation's streak. He would have to face the talented colts Dramatic Gold and Unbridled's Song. He would once again carry 130 pounds. He pulled away from Dramatic Gold nearing the wire to win his 16th race in a row.
The End of the Streak
Cigar would make his attempt to surpass Citation in the Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club near San Diego, California. Another record crowd of over 40,000 attended. Like in his last race in California, the Hollywood Gold Cup, Bailey took Cigar wide most of the way. However, he was drawn into a three horse speed duel with the good stakes horse Siphon and Dramatic Gold, going the first 3/4 of a mile in a very fast 1:09 1/5. The speed dual caused all the leaders to tire, and Dare And Go, ridden by Alex Solis, was able to pass Cigar in the stretch to score the upset, with Cigar settling for second.
Cigar rebounded in the 1996 Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park, which would turn out to be Cigar's last victory as a racehorse. Cigar was beaten by Skip Away (who would go on to win the 1997 Breeders' Cup Classic and the 1998 Horse of the Year title) in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and concluded his career with a third place finish (again suffering from a wide trip) to upset winner Alphabet Soup in the 1996 Breeders' Cup Classic at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Canada.
Despite losing his last two races, tying Citation's race record was enough to earn him his second straight Champion Older Male and Horse of the Year honors. As a 6 year old, Cigar won five of eight starts and $4,910,000. His third place finish at Woodbine cost him the chance to be the first horse to win $10 million; he finished with a tantalizingly close $9,999,813.
Cigar was retired to stud at the end of the 1996 racing season. Ceremonies were held at Madison Square Garden to honor the horse. Further accolades came when he was named the Racehorse of the Decade of the 1990s, and in 2002 he was inducted in his first year of eligibility into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. In the Blood-Horse magazine ranking of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century, Cigar was ranked #18. In accordance with that ranking, Cigar is the highest ranked thoroughbred during the decade of the nineties (1990-1999) and therefore lays claim to the title, "Horse of the Decade."
On February 2, 1997, a life-size bronze statue of Cigar was unveiled at Florida's Gulfstream Park on "A Salute to Cigar Day."
Also in 1997, the New York Racing Association renamed the Grade I NYRA Mile, run in November at Aqueduct, as the Cigar Mile. The NYRA Mile was the second race in Cigar's win streak.
Cigar proved infertile as a sire and now lives at the Kentucky Horse Park's Hall of Champions in Lexington.
Until Curlin surpassed him in 2008, Cigar was America's richest racehorse. Cigar now ranks second in lifetime earnings, although it should be noted that the size of purses in Cigar's day were smaller than in Curlin's. When calculating for inflated purses, neither would be near the top of the lifetime earnings rankings.