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Submitted by John Conte on Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Aqueduct: Goldencents aiming for titles in Cigar Mile


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – The incentives implemented by the New York Racing Association for Saturday’s Grade 1 Cigar Mile certainly worked, as 11 horses – led by Breeders’ Cup winners Groupie Doll and Goldencents – were entered Wednesday for the one-turn, one-mile race at Aqueduct.

The Cigar Mile carries a base purse of $500,000, up from $400,000 a year ago. But outgoing NYRA racing secretary P.J. Campo put in provisions that any Breeders’ Cup winner would run for the winner’s share of a $1 million purse and any Grade 1 winner would run for the winner’s share of a $750,000 purse. In addition to Groupie Doll and Goldencents, the race drew Grade 1 winners Flat Out, Verrazano, Capo Bastone, and Private Zone.

Forty Tales, Clearly Now, and Laugh Track – the latter being the runner-up in the BC Sprint – are all graded stakes winners. Late entrants to the field were Saratoga Snacks, winner of the Empire Classic for New York-breds, and Praetereo, winner of a third-level allowance race here Nov. 8 for this circuit’s leading trainer, David Jacobson.

The allure of the added money wasn’t the only reason Glenn Sorgenstein, part owner of Goldencents, wanted to ship his BC Dirt Mile winner across the country to New York. Believing that championship honors in both the 3-year-old male and sprint divisions are not settled, Sorgenstein said a victory here could put Goldencents in the conversation in one or both categories.

“He’s the only 3-year-old that has won a Grade 1 against older company,” Sorgenstein said Wednesday, moments before boarding a New York-bound flight from Los Angeles. “A win in the Cigar would give him two Grade 1’s against older company, nothing that any other 3-year-old can do. That’s a pretty solid body of work to dispute.”

Sorgenstein, who owns Goldencents with Josh Kaplan, did concede that should Will Take Charge win Friday’s Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs, he would deserve the 3-year-old championship.

“But sprinter is still out there,” Sorgenstein said. “I think being on the ballot is important in one or two categories.”

Goldencents, trained by Doug O’Neill, won the Grade 3 Sham and Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby this year but finished 17th behind Orb in the Kentucky Derby and finished fifth – Orb was fourth – in the Preakness. After a break, Goldencents came back with three runner-up finishes in graded sprint stakes in Southern California – suffering two losses to Points Offthebench – before winning the BC Dirt Mile.

Goldencents is the 120-pound highweight in the Cigar Mile and will break from post 8 under Rafael Bejarano. O’Neill also will send out the speedy Private Zone from post 11 under Martin Pedroza. Private Zone won the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont before finishing 10th in the BC Sprint. O’Neill said former jockey Rene Douglas, who manages Private Zone for Good Friends Stable, was keen on trying the Cigar Mile.

“He likes the idea of a one-turn mile – the pace might be a little easier than a three-quarter sprint,” O’Neill said. “If Private Zone can get any sort of breather, which he might not, he’s a bear trying to pass down the lane.”

Groupie Doll won the BC Filly and Mare Sprint last year and was beaten a nose by Stay Thirsty in the Cigar Mile. She again won this year’s BC Filly and Mare Sprint and, after being purchased at the Keeneland sale Nov. 4 for $3.1 million by Mandy Pope, is back to take on the boys again in the Cigar Mile.

“This will be the toughest race she’s run in, really,” said Buff Bradley, trainer of Groupie Doll, who drew post 4. “There are some good horses in there.”

Flat Out is best known as the two-time winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup, run at 1 1/4 miles, and as a Belmont Park specialist. He earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 116 in beating Cross Traffic in the Grade 3 Westchester, a one-turn, one-mile race. He will break from post 9 under Junior Alvarado.

The Cigar Mile will go as race 8 on a 10-race card that begins at noon and includes the $400,000 Remsen for 2-year-old males, the $400,000 Demoiselle for 2-year-old fillies, and the $400,000 Comely for 3-year-old fillies.

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