By: BloodHorse Staff
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners could have as many as two contenders for the $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) Dec. 4 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Aron Wellman, managing partner of the syndicate, said multiple graded stakes winner Independence Hall , a colt Eclipse owns in partnership, is confirmed for the final grade 1 race at NYRA for the calendar year in his last start before going to stud. And he could be joined by late-running Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner Aloha West . A win by the latter would add to his résumé in a bid to garner sufficient votes to be named champion sprinter. Eclipse solely campaigns Aloha West.
“Independence Hall is definite pending his next work at Churchill,” Wellman said. “The Cigar Mile is under consideration for Aloha West, but no decisions have been made.”
Trained by Michael McCarthy, Independence Hall won the Hagyard Fayette Stakes (G2) Oct. 30 over a sloppy track at Keeneland.
Owned in partnership with Twin Creeks Racing Stables, WinStar Farm, Kathleen Verratti, and Robert Verratti, the son of Constitution is 2-for-2 at a one-turn mile at Aqueduct when romping to a 12 1/4-length victory in the Nashua Stakes (G3) in November 2019 followed by a four-length score in the Jerome Stakes on New Year’s Day 2020.
Aloha West, a two-time winner at Saratoga Race Course this summer, returned to the work tab Nov. 24 for trainer Wayne Catalano, recording a half-mile move in :49.40 over the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots main track.
“We wanted to put the Cigar Mile in play, which is why we breezed Wednesday, but we’re monitoring him closely ahead of the race,” Wellman said. “That workout was designed to try to get a gauge on if we should pursue the race or not.”
A victory would make Aloha West the first horse to capture both the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and Cigar Mile. Prior to his last-out score, the Maryland-bred son of Hard Spun was second, beaten a neck in the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (G2) Oct. 8 at Keeneland.
The Cigar Mile is one of four graded stakes at Aqueduct Dec. 4, the others being the Remsen Stakes (G2), Demoiselle Stakes (G2), and Go for Wand Handicap (G3).
Both the Remsen and Demoiselle offer qualifying points toward next spring’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) and Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs.
Forced Ranking , Mo Donegal , Overstep , and Zandon are four of the leading prospects pointed to the Remsen, which like the Demoiselle, is at 1 1/8 miles on the main track. The Go for Ward is a mile dirt race.