Cigar entered the 1995 Breeders Cup Classic riding an eleven race winning streak that spanned back to his last two races of 1994. It was a streak in which Cigar had not run a Beyer Speed Figure less than a 104 and had earned figures above 110 in all but two of his races. He had won 8 grade one stakes at 6 different tracks on both the west and east coasts.
Cigar’s dominating performances and the consecutive victories had gained the attention of sports fans and not just in the racing world. Cigar found his way into mainstream magazines like People, Esquire, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated.
Cigar was a homebred of Allen Paulson and was foaled in Maryland. His pedigree was what put him on the grass for the 11 of his first 13 races. He was a son of Palace Music out of a Seattle Slew mare. Cigar’s name came from the world of aviation tycoon Paulson. Most aviation checkpoints are five letter words and Cigar was one such location in the Gulf of Mexico.
Bill Mott took over the training of Cigar in the summer of 1994. Cigar had been a stakes placed turf specialist in California and Mott continued to run him on the grass. In October of 1994, Mott entered Cigar in a N2X allowance race on the main dirt track at Aqueduct. That race was to mark the beginning of Cigar’s winning streak. He beat that field by eight lengths and he earned his first triple digit speed figure. A month later he became a grade one stakes winner of the NYRA mile with a 115 BSF. Of course that is the race that is now known as the Cigar Mile.
Cigar’s win streak saw him defeat the best horses around the country. Holy Bull’s racing career ended in the 1995 Donn Handicap that Cigar won. In the Pimlico Special he beat Concern and Devil His Due. Tinner’s Way and Best Pal fell to him in the Hollywood Gold Cup. Wins in the Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup led him to the Breeders Cup Classic, which was to be held at his home track of Belmont Park.
The 1995 Breeders’ Cup was all about Cigar and his consecutive wins, but the track at Belmont came up muddy and he had had only one other unsuccessful try on a wet track. Also the inside paths had been the place to be all day and Cigar was breaking from the 10 post. No horse had gone undefeated for an entire year and won the Horse of the Year title since Spectacular Bid in 1980.
Nothing was going to stop Cigar in the Classic. One of Tom Durkin’s most memorable calls captures the excitement of the race.
Cigar was full of run from the moment he left the gate, “Cigar is keyed up today…Cigar wants to go for the lead but Jerry Bailey says NO, not yet.”
Approaching Belmont’s sweeping final turn Durkin exclaimed, ”CIGAR, CIGAR makes his move and sweeps to the lead with a dramatic rush with three furlongs to go. Jerry Bailey turns him loose.”
Durkin knew the importance of today’s race and Cigar’s place in history. “A quarter of a mile remains between Cigar and a perfect season.”
As he stretched his lead to two lengths Durkin helped build the legend of Cigar, “Here he is, the unconquerable, the invincible, the unbeatable, Cigar.” To this day when I watch the race and hear Durkin’s call I feel the excitement and emotion of that day. It was a classic Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1995.