Cigar Mile Disappointment for Harlem Rocker

Aqueduct Racecourse, in New York, is known to host some of the best horse racing events on the racing calendar and Saturday, 29 November 2008, was no different. It was the running of the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap, and with a purse of $300 000, many noteworthy horses were entered into this spectacular racing event. Previously known as the NYRA Mile, it was renamed to the Cigar Mile Handicap after the horse racing phenomenon Cigar retired in 1997. It is a flat horse racing event for three-year-old and older horses and is run over a distance of eight furlongs. But this year, the race was marred by disqualification, injury and loss.

The supporting races on Saturday had kept everyone in high spirits for the Cigar Mile Handicap. But just after Garrett Gomez and Springside crossed the finish line in victory in the Demoiselle racing event for fillies, he heard a “pop”, forcing him to pull up his mount immediately. On examination, it was found that Springside had fractured her pastern and will now be sent to the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine for treatment. Then, during the final stretch of the Cigar Mile Handicap, a gasp filled the air as spectators saw Wanderin Boy being pulled up in the final stretch. Unfortunately, the Nick Zito trained seven-year-old had to be euthanized after it was determined that he had broken the sesamoids in his foreleg. And if all this was not enough to darken the emotional cloud hanging over the sunny day at Aqueduct Racecourse, there was much controversy in the winning of the Cigar Mile.

The trouble started as the field turned for home, with front runners Harlem Rocker, with Eibar Coa on board, and Tale of Ekati, piloted by Edgar Prado, battling for first position. It was said that Harlem Rocker drifted towards the rail, where Tale of Ekati was charging down, forcing him to check and move to the outside to continue his attack for victory. As Harlem Rocker crossed the finish line a nose before Tale of Ekati, the stewards raised their inquiry sign and gathered to watch a re-run of the race so as to determine if the movement of Harlem Rocker could have influenced the outcome of the race. They sided with Tale of Ekati, trained by Barclay Tagg, and moved Harlem Rocker into second position. Todd Pletcher was visibly upset with the decision, expressing his disagreement with the outcome, by saying: “Tale of Ekati had every opportunity to go by our horse. And, in my opinion, he was never going by. It’s a tough call in a Grade I stakes.” Pletcher also said that he would discuss appealing the decision with Harlem Rocker’s owner, Frank Stronach.