The final Grade I of the year in New York, the $750,000 Cigar Mile, is set for Saturday at Aqueduct. Eight handicap horses will try their luck in the one-turn test. Going as Race 9 of 10 on a stakes-laden card, post time for the Cigar is 3:45 p.m. EST. In addition to watching and wagering, be sure to take part in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!
#5 COPPER TOWN (5-2) was last seen dusting five foes in an allowance comeback at Keeneland. He hadn’t raced in over a year before that effort but dominated in consecutive starts at Belmont at the end of 2017. Stretching back out to a mile should do wonders for the promising COPPER TOWN, who is capable of running the necessary speed figure to win a Grade I. As he did last time out, Javier Castellano should guide COPPER TOWN just off a strong pace and cut him loose late.
#8 PATTERNRECOGNITION (7-2) is likely to look for the lead along with #1 MENDELSSOHN (2-1, morning-line favorite). He set the pace and held safe in the Grade II Kelso at Belmont when last seen. A glance at his earlier form indicates he is not a ‘need the lead’ type, so expect Jose Ortiz to try and save something in reserve atop PATTERNRECOGNITION. He’s the only runner in the field with a perfect record over this course (2-for-2).
MENDELSSOHN seeks his first stateside win as he tries his fourth different course in start number six. The closest he’s come to victory since his UAE Derby romp was a runner-up result in the Travers (four lengths behind Catholic Boy). He’s been hard-sent from the gate of late by Ryan Moore, who flies in for the call once more. MENDELSSOHN will almost certainly try to wire this group with his rail draw. But at 2-1 or less and no wins to his credit since March, it’s hard to endorse him on top.
#3 PAT ON THE BACK (15-1) merits inclusion in the lower rungs of exotics, along with #2 SUNNY RIDGE (9-2). PAT ON THE BACK lost in his only prior try at Aqueduct but caught a muddy track that day. Since that January debacle he’s hit the exacta in six straight starts (three wins), including an Empire Classic victory in his most recent outing. He has a win and a placing (second to Diversify by a nose in the Commentator last May) in two career starts at one mile. The state-bred probably won’t win but could sneak up for second or third if the pace collapses. Dylan Davis rides.
SUNNY RIDGE lures Irad Ortiz Jr., and while he’s won just once in five starts this year, his best effort puts him in the hunt for a share. He’s another that would benefit from a pace meltdown.
The play: $2 trifecta 5/1,8/1,2,3,8, $1 trifecta 5/1,2,3,8/1,2,3,8, $1 trifecta 5/1,8/1,8 ($20)
DFJ analysis: Javier Castellano has mounts in quantity and quality at Aqueduct this Saturday. Seven of his nine total assignments are 6-1 or less on the morning-line. Castellano’s best stakes mounts include Network Effect (7-5) in the Remsen and COPPER TOWN (5-2) in the Cigar.
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