2022 Cigar Mile Odds & More Races From Aqueduct

Not everyone loves blue-collar Aqueduct but it’s the only place to be on Saturday, when the G1 2022 Cigar Mile – featuring a clash between G1 winners Mind Control and Zandon – headlines the afternoon. There’s plenty of juvenile potential in the G2 Remsen and G2 Demoiselle, notably Julia Shining, a sister to the champion Malathaat, in the latter, and the very competitive G3 Go For Wand brings together several consistent and in-form distaffers including Battle Bling and Betsy Blue.

Cigar Mile Handicap

G1, $750,000, 1m dirt, 3yo+, 3.43pm ET

A horse bidding to reignite his career and one trying to end his career on a high note head the bill for the 2022 Cigar Mile, the feature event of Saturday afternoon at a frigid Aqueduct and a race reduced to six by the scratch of O Besos, a collateral victim of the equine herpesvirus outbreak at Churchill Downs.

The old-timer taking his final curtain call is high-weight Mind Control, a dual G1 winner who has enjoyed a valedictory blossoming of a fine career with two wins from his last three starts, including a defeat of Hot Rod Charlie in the G3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park in June.

He goes well off a layoff and has been freshened up since getting a stakes win over a mile at Parx Racing on a disqualification in September, beaten a neck by a subsequently demoted winner. Mind Control is four-for-seven at the Big A, is a true miler against horses cutting back in distance, and is a tough competitor who likes to be on or near the lead. Trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Cigar Mile a record five times.

Mind Control’s fiercest rival is expected to be Zandon, a ‘nearly’ horse this year who has always acquitted himself well but has come up short in a string of big races since his victory in the G1 Blue Grass at Keeneland in April – runner-up in the G2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga and G1 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx, third in the G1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs and the G1 Travers at Saratoga.

The mile-eighth Penn Derby was his most recent start and he ran his usual solid race, coming from well off the pace to split the class acts Taiba and Cyberknife and finishing five lengths ahead of fifth-placed White Abarrio. The issue with Zandon is the distance – he hasn’t gone this short since his debut, and his style of running may not be suited to taking on faster horses. He has the class, though.

Fellow sophomore White Abarrio has, like Zandon, failed to get his head in front since winning a major Derby prep, in his case the G1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in April.

He finished well behind Zandon in the ‘Run for the Roses’ and ran a dreadful race in the G1 Haskell at Monmouth Park, with his only notable contribution this summer coming when runner-up in the G3 Ohio Derby over a mile-eighth at Thistledown in June. He has never won away from Gulfstream and needs a career-best to figure.

West-coast shipper Get Her Number was a G1 winner at two but is zero-for-seven in stakes since then, although he was a rallying runner-up in the six-furlong G1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar in July. Two weeks ago he got up in the last jump to win an allowance optional claimer over the same course and distance, but he may not want to stretch out this far and there are class concerns.

Double Crown sprang a big 42-1 shock when making his Graded-stakes breakthrough in the G2 Kelso over course and distance in October, only his second win in his last 17 starts. There’s absolutely no guarantee that he can back that up, but if he’s in the same mood then he has claims to hit the board. His barnmate Outlier makes his stakes debut today and doesn’t look anywhere near good enough.

2022 Cigar Mile Odds & Free Betting Pick

Two stand out and the tough MIND CONTROL, making his final start, is preferred to Zandon given his preference for this distance and his affinity for this track.

Double CrownJ. D. Acosta+1500
ZandonJoel Rosario+100
White AbarrioIrad Ortiz, Jr.+450
Get Her NumberLuis Saez+400
O Besosscratched
OutlierLuis Angel Batista+3000
Mind ControlJohn R. Velazquez+250

Remsen Stakes

G2, $250,000, 1m 1f dirt, 2yo, 2.44pm ET

The Remsen is another stop on the ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’, offering qualifying points for Churchill Downs on a 10-4-3-2-1 spread, although no Remsen winner has followed up in the Derby since Thunder Gulch in 1994/95. Last year’s winner Mo Donegal went on to win the G1 Belmont Stakes.

The focus falls on the unbeaten Tuskegee Airmen, an easy winner on debut over seven furlongs at Parx Racing before upgrading to stakes company over a mile at Delaware Park, where he scored with some degree of comfort, doing all his best work in the closing stages to beat the front-running Midnight Trouble by three and a quarter lengths.

That indicates today’s extra yardage should be within his grasp, and this big, strong colt looks a highly progressive individual. Midnight Trouble has never before left Delaware Park and, with six runs to his name already, lacks the scope for improvement possessed by several of his rivals.

Arctic Arrogance is firmly on the upgrade and left a big impression in a state-bred stakes here over a mile in October, when he led pretty much all the way and shook clear through the stretch to beat pace-pressing Quick To Accuse by four and a half lengths. The move up to a mile was evidently a positive and further could suit.

Quick To Accuse, who broke his maiden here over a mile by almost ten lengths, was also running a career-best there and should go well again, although it’s hard to see him flipping the form.

Another pace angle could be Prove Right, who has only a maiden win to his name but produced a solid effort here in the G3 Nashua over a mile, when he tried to go gate-to-wire but faded in the closing stages to finish third, beaten two and a quarter lengths. The extra furlong is a concern and he is fully exposed now.

Stakes debutant Il Miracolo leaves Gulfstream Park for the first time, having broken his maiden last time out at his fourth attempt, going coast-to-coast to win by five and a half lengths over a mile. He looks worth a chance at this higher level, as does Dubyuhnell, who won a maiden here over a mile that was taken off the turf. He finished off his race well and should be effective stretching out.

Remsen Stakes Odds & Free Betting Pick

Tuskegee Airmen is the one to beat but ARCTIC ARROGANCE, an easy winner here over a mile, could do just that with the extra yardage likely to suit.

Il MiracoloJavier Castellano+1200
Tuskegee AirmenLuis Saez+160
Prove RightJose Antonio Gomez+1500
Arctic ArroganceJose Lezcano+200
Midnight TroublePaco Lopez+800
Quick to AccuseManuel Franco+600
DubyuhnellJose L. Ortiz+500

Demoiselle Stakes

G2, $250,000, 1m 1f dirt, 2yo fillies, 2.16pm ET

Todd Pletcher – trainer of Cigar Mile major player Mind Control – has another big chance in the Demoiselle, a race he has won a record seven times including the last two editions with future divisional champions Malathaat and Nest. The Malathaat connection is especially relevant, as his main hope today is a sister to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner.

That filly is Julia Shining, who impressed all and sundry when making a successful debut at Keeneland over seven furlongs in October. She started slowly, showing her inexperience, but as soon as the penny dropped at about halfway she became very professional and drew off to win with plenty in reserve.

She’s certain to move up from that and connections are confident that the extra yardage is what she’s looking for. If she’s half as good as her big sister she’ll take some stopping.

Her barnmate Gambling Girl is much more seasoned and has already won at stakes level, winning a state-bred affair here over seven furlongs. She has to rebound from defeat as favourite in another state-bred stakes here over a mile, but she was bumped hard at the gate and never really got back in the groove after that, so she gets a pass. She wouldn’t have the potential of Julia Shining, though.

Another with stakes experience is Foggy Girl, who won a maiden over the extended mile at Parx Racing before finishing runner-up here in a stakes over a mile, no threat to the easy winner but well ahead of previous course winner La Vita Sofia, seven and three-quarter lengths back in fourth and never a factor. This needs more but there may be more to come.

Like Julia Shining, Royal Spa got it right first time, although she wasn’t as eyecatching when scraping home by a half-length at Churchill Downs over six and a half furlongs. There was a fair gap back to the third horse, which is always an encouraging sign, and improvement can be taken for granted.

Tribal Queen got off the mark at the third attempt when making much of the running and keeping on gamely for a comfortable win here over six furlongs. She may be a pace angle again but there’s no guarantee she can carry that speed for another three-eighths, while Affirmative Lady has a very stiff task given that she is still a maiden after two starts, latterly when fourth at Keeneland over seven furlongs, doing all her best work late. She may not be ready for this.

Demoiselle Stakes Odds & Betting Prediction

If trends mean anything then impressive maiden winner JULIA SHINING is the one – her trainer has a great record in this and her sister won it two years ago.

Foggy NightPaco Lopez+500
Royal SpaJoel Rosario+500
Julia ShiningLuis Saez-167
La Vita SofiaManuel Franco+1500
Affirmative LadyJohn R. Velazquez+1000
Gambling GirlIrad Ortiz, Jr.+800
Tribal QueenEric Cancel+2000

Go For Wand Stakes

G3, $200,000, 1m dirt, 3yo+ females, 3.14pm ET

At this time of year a filly in form can be a potent weapon for bettors, and the Go For Wand showcases a horse deep in the groove at her favourite track.

In her last ten starts, Battle Bling has only finished out of the first two on one occasion, and that was in the G1 La Troienne at Churchill Downs when she ran fourth. Now she comes back here after completing a three-timer with a career-best in the G3 Turnback The Alarm over a mile-eighth, leading every step of the way and holding on well to score by a neck, with the third horse a mile back and WW Fitzy so far back in fourth you needed binoculars to find her, and three-time course winner Exotic West losing her jockey at the gate.

She has never been out of the first two in five starts at the Big A, and if she has the kick to take a prominent position despite cutting back in distance, she’ll be hard to stop. Admittedly, back in March Battle Bling came up a neck short behind Bank Sting in a stakes over course and distance, but she has moved forward since then and the talented Bank Sting has shown most of her recent talent at six furlongs.

Other fillies building a sequence are Love In The Air and Self Isolation. Love In The Air is bidding for a hat-trick after two scores in state-bred stakes at Parx Racing, going gate-to-wire both times to win by six lengths and two lengths. She has missed the board just once in her life and although she’ll find this a tougher test, she’s peaking right now.

Self Isolation steps away from the allowance optional claimer circuit after three straight wins, the most recent here over seven furlongs. She was beaten on her sole start at stakes level but is in better shape now.

Aqueduct is also the favoured spot for the incredibly consistent – off the board twice in 18 races – Betsy Blue, who is six-for-nine here but was a little out of her depth at state-bred stakes level last time when fourth, three-quarters of a length behind Bank Sting. A mile may not be what she wants, though.

Dr B was narrowly denied a stakes breakthrough when beaten three-quarters of a length here over seven furlongs last time – the third horse a long way back – and shouldn’t be ignored, but Tonal Vision will need to find a fair bit more than she showed when winning an AOC over a mile at Parx Racing last time and Sharapova has a seven-month layoff to overcome and could be a little rusty.

Go for Wand Stakes Odds & Free Betting Pick

A very competitive contest in which track specialist BATTLE BLING is the choice to complete a four-timer, after running a career-best here in this grade last time.

Love in the AirPaco Lopez+1000
Exotic WestDylan Davis+2000
Battle BlingKendrick Carmouche+300
W W FitzyJavier Castellano+1500
SharapovaJohn R. Velazquez+1200
Self IsolationJose L. Ortiz+1000
Dr BIrad Ortiz, Jr.+400
Betsy BlueJose Lezcano+600
Flight to ShanghaiManuel Franco+2000
Bank StingJoel Rosario+400
Tonal VisionJunior Alvarado+1500

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