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Thursday, November 28
It's a loaded Cigar Saturday at Aqueduct




OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The morning after Crafty C.T. finished a fast-closing third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, trainer Howard Zucker was already excited about running him back in the $350,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.

As the race drew closer, Zucker's enthusiasm waned somewhat as he began to learn who was going to run. The field of 10 entered for Saturday's Cigar Mile - the last Grade 1 of the year in New York - features four Grade 1 winners - Congaree, Red Bullet, Bonapaw, and Harlan's Holiday.

"Considering it's the end of the year they still have a lot of good horses hanging out for this,' said Zucker, whose horse may go off a slight favorite in the race. "There's some deep talent in there. We'll take them on. If we can win it, at least they won't be able to say we won a bad race.'

The Cigar Mile highlights a 10-race card that includes the Remsen and Demoiselle, a pair of Grade 2, $200,000 stakes for juveniles and 2-year-old fillies, respectively. First post is noon Eastern.

The Cigar drew horses from three Breeders' Cup races. Aldebaran comes out of the Mile, Bonapaw and Crafty C.T. come out of the Sprint, and Harlan's Holiday ran in the 10-furlong Classic.

Aldebaran, a 4-year-old son of Mr. Prospector, is the only non-graded stakes winner in the field, but may be the most dangerous horse in the race. He has won only three times from 16 starts, but has finished second 10 times, including in the Metropolitan Handicap and the Vosburgh.

Trainer Bobby Frankel ran Aldebaran in the Breeders' Cup Mile because he felt the six-furlong distance of the Sprint was too short for him. Aldebaran finished 11th in the Mile, but his chances were compromised when Landseer fell in front of him. A one-turn mile on dirt could fit Aldebaran nicely.

"I think it's a good fit,' Frankel said. "How his feet are doing is the most important thing and his feet are very good right now. Sometimes, they sting him a little bit, but they're in real good shape.'

Aldebaran drew post 6 with primary speed horses Bonapaw, Resolve, and Congaree to his inside.

Crafty C.T. finished behind Aldebaran in the Met Mile and was beaten only one length by Orientate in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. In that race, Zucker felt his horse - who rallied wide and from off the pace - was compromised by a track he believes favored inside speed.

"We sure could have been second on a fairer racetrack,' Zucker said.

The Cigar Mile is so competitive that Grade 1 winners Harlan's Holiday and Red Bullet could go off at generous prices.

Harlan's Holiday, who won the Florida Derby and Blue Grass earlier this year, did not handle the track in the Classic, according to trainer Todd Pletcher. Pletcher had contemplated trying Harlan's Holiday on the grass in the Hollywood Derby.

Pletcher will equip Harlan's Holiday with a thin-cupped blinker for the Cigar Mile in hopes of getting him into the race a little earlier.

"I'm not expecting him to be on the lead; hopefully he'll be keen leaving there and we'll find ourselves in a good stalking position,' Pletcher said.

Red Bullet, the 2000 Preakness winner, finished third in this race last year. Red Bullet returned from a seven-month layoff to win the six-furlong Foggy Road Stakes at Delaware Park last out.

Red Bullet will benefit from a solid pace, with Bonapaw, the front-running Vosburgh winner, having drawn the rail and Resolve, a speedy gelding, in post 2. Congaree, who won the Wood Memorial here last year, also figures to be involved early under Jerry Bailey.

Multiple Choice comes off a powerful 7 1/4-length victory in the Sport Page Handicap over this track in October. A duplication of that effort gives him an upset chance for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.

Windsor Castle, the 2000 Remsen winner, and Griffinite, another Grade 2 winner, complete the field.

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