Sharp Azteca is Top Miler in Winning Cigar Mile with Pegasus World Cup in Site
The betting favorite didn’t disappoint his backers Saturday in the $750,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. In one of the best year-end races that featured some solid older horses that competed in last month’s Breeders’ Cup, Sharp Azteca (8-5) showed his class and sensational speed to win the Cigar Mile by more than 5-lengths. The victory proved again that Sharp Azteca is the most consistently brilliant miler this year, and one of the best milers in recent years.
With top-jock Javier Castellano riding Sharp Azteca for the first time, he sat in behind the dueling frontrunners on the backstretch as they blazed through an opening quarter mile in 22.78 seconds. As they neared the far turn, Sharp Azteca moved up on the outside and then seized command down the stretch, moving out by 3 lengths and drawing clear to win the 5 ½ lengths. Sharp Azteca paid $5.50 to win and picked up $450,000 for the victory, while Mind Your Biscuit rallied for to return $6.40 to place and Practical Joke charged home for third.
In winning his first Grade 1 race, Sharp Azteca has now won 8-of-16 starts including five runner-up finishes. One of those was 2nd behind Mind Your Biscuits last December in the
Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita. All three top finishers raced in this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar last month with Sharp Azteca finishing 2nd in the BC Dirt Mile well in front of 4th place finisher Practical Joke. Mind Your Biscuits was 3rd in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Trained by Chad Brown, the 3-year-old Practical Joke was the youngest horse in the Cigar field, and it was also the last race of his career. Practical Joke won 5 races in 12 starts with 10 in the money finishes and nearly $1.8 million in earnings. He finished 3rd in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and one of his out-of-the money finishes was a 5th place finish in the 2017 Kentucky Derby.
The next race for Sharp Azteca appears to be in the world’s richest race the end of January at Gulfstream Park; the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational. When asked about it, his trainer Jorge Navarro said, “After this performance, why not? We are going to see how he comes out of this first.”