Tonalist (near side) completes a one-two for trainer Christophe ClementPICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos
Fast-finishing Tonalist smokes Cigar Mile rivals
Report: USA, Saturday
Aqueduct: Cigar Mile Handicap (Grade 1) 1m, dirt, 3yo+
LAST year's Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist (Christophe Clement/John Velazquez) flew down the outside to claim the Cigar Mile, in which Red Vine completed a one-two for his trainer by taking second in a photo.
Last seen finishing fifth to American Pharoah in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Tonalist was sent off 11-5 second favourite behind star sprinter Private Zone, who won this $500,000 event in 2014.
But although Private Zone made the running at a steady pace by his own standard, he looked to be unhappy throughout, running awkwardly and pulling for his head down the back stretch.
He was a spent force midway down the stretch and dropped out, leaving Matrooh and Mshawish in the lead – only for Red Vine to split them and Tonalist to charge down the outside in a tight finish.
Barely a length covered the first four as dual top-weight Tonalist, conceding 6lb to the runner-up, got home by a neck.
“I'm always a little bit worried when I run him,” said Clement. “The race was run in a funny way; they went so slow early on, which I didn't think was great for us. But that's what good horses do - they win and they overcome things.
“It’s very gratifying to win a Grade 1 at a mile. It just shows everybody he’s a top-class horse.”
The son of Tapit, who completed back-to-back victories in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in October, is set to stay in training as a five-year-old.
Speaking to the Daily Racing Form, owner Robert Evans added: “I think we’ll keep racing him - there’s no reason not to. He’s absolutely sound. He never has anything except Lasix. Why not? A lot of people think this game is about trading horses. It’s actually about racehorses.”
Also on Saturday
Churchill Downs: Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (Grade 2) 1m½f, dirt, 2yo
Airoforce (Mark Casse/Julien Leparoux) paid a major tribute to his Breeders' Cup conqueror Hit It A Bomb with a powerful victory as he switched to dirt here.
Wearing blinkers first time, Airoforce raced well towards the rear of the main body of the field before splitting horses and opening up down the stretch to score by a length and three-quarters in a noteworthy performance given that it took place on a horribly sloppy track.
At this early stage, he must be one of the leading names on the Kentucky Derby list for 2016.
Aqueduct: Remsen Stakes (Grade 2) 1m1f, dirt, 2yo
On first-time Lasix, Shadwell's $2.2m purchase Mohaymen (Kiaran McLaughlin/Junior Alvarado) stalked the pace before splitting horses in the stretch to win going away by a length and a half.
The grey son of Tapit, who was extending his unbeaten record to three, stopped the clock in 1m50.69s, more than two and a half seconds faster than the fillies over the same distance in the Demoiselle earlier on the same card. That race went to Lewis Bay (Chad Brown/Irad Ortiz).
Del Mar: Native Diver Handicap (Grade 3) 1m1f, dirt, 3yo+
A dominant display from Kentucky Derby third Dortmund (Bob Baffert/Gary Stevens), who had returned after a five-month layoff to win a minor stakes race at Santa Anita five weeks beforehand. The three-year-old took this by four and a half.