Classy Azteca bags first Grade 1 with dominant Cigar Mile victory
Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile runner-up Sharp Azteca (Jorge Navarro/Javier Castellano) finally landed the Grade 1 success his CV was missing with a dominant victory in the Cigar Mile, the highlight of the Aqueduct 'fall' meeting.
The four-year-old, who had won a multiple lower-level Graded stakes, defied topweight in a competitive field to win by 5¼ lengths from high-class dirt sprinter Mind Your Biscuits.
Sent off 7-4 favourite for the $750,000 event, Sharp Azteca sat a couple of lengths off a hot pace before taking control as they entered the stretch, after which his rivals were playing for second place.
"There was a lot of early speed with the horses in this race," said Castellano. "I was really impressed by the way he did it. I just asked him to win the race back, I didn't push him all the way. We've known this is a special horse for a long time."
Trainer Jorge Navarro will now consider the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on January 27. "After this performance, why not?" he said. "We are going to see how he comes out of this first.
"I know we were sitting on that Grade 1, and you know what, I wasn't expecting this big of a performance. He ran his eyes out. What else can I ask?"
The Chad Brown-trained Practical Joke, a Grade 1 winner at two and three, has been retired after finishing third.
Also on Saturday
Aqueduct: Remsen Stakes (Grade 2) 1m1f | dirt | 2yo
Switching from turf to dirt, Catholic Boy (Jonathan Thomas/Manny Franco) was an impressive winner of this important two-year-old contest. The Kentucky Derby route now beckons in 2018.
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