Cigar Mile headlines Saturday at Aqueduct

A field of ten will line up in the gate for the 28th running of the Grade I, $500,000 Cigar Mile on Saturday at Aqueduct. Post time for the illustrious event that anchors a card with four graded stakes is approximately 4:20 p.m.; it’s Race 10 on the program. Don’t forget to take part in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!

#7 CONNECT (5-2) will be my top pick in the Cigar with Chad Brown and Javier Castellano in his corner. Castellano, who chose CONNECT over fellow Brown trainee THREEFIVEINDIA, was aboard for CONNECT’s latest victory, the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 24. CONNECT is a solid 4-for-6 lifetime, with his two losses coming in his debut and behind Arrogate in the Travers Stakes. He’s been training as sharp as ever for this and shouldn’t mind the cutback to a mile. He also has a versatile running style that will give Castellano strategy options once the latch is sprung.

#9 THREEFIVEINDIA (6-1) stretches out after placing in the seven-furlong Bold Ruler Stakes at Belmont last time out. Despite having no stakes wins to his credit, his speed figures are competitive and he has two stakes placings on his dossier. He’ll lose Castellano today but picks up Irad Ortiz Jr. in his stead.

#1 ANCHOR DOWN (2-1, morning-line favorite) could prove best if he runs his best race, but there’s no guarantee the inconsistent Pletcher trainee will do so. He was impressive in the Kelso Handicap over Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Tamarkuz, but was recovering off two poor efforts in the Vanderbilt and Met Mile before that. ANCHOR DOWN seeks his first win at Aqueduct in try number three; Jose Ortiz has the call.

#10 DIVINING ROD (8-1), a 2015 Triple Crown participant, has come back in 2016 after a long delay but hasn’t lost a step. He won two allowance preps at Parx for trainer Arnaud Delacour before taking second behind runaway winner Noble Bird in Keeneland’s Fayette Stakes last time out. The cutback to a mile seems perfect for him; Daniel Centeno ships in to ride.

The play: $4 exacta 7/1,9, $2 exacta 7/10 ($10)

DFJ analysis: Irad Ortiz Jr. has a mount in all four stakes on Aqueduct’s Cigar Mile card, two of which are favorites (Lewis Bay in the Comely and Jamyson ‘n Ginger in the Demoiselle). Nearly all of Ortiz Jr’s nine mounts on Saturday are live, including THREEFIVEINDIA in the feature event.

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