Sharp Azteca Finally Gets His Grade 1 Win In Cigar Mile

It took 16 career starts, but Ivan Rodriguez’ Sharp Azteca has finally earned a Grade 1 victory. The 4-year-old son of Freud easily captured Saturday’s Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, cruising under the wire 5 1/4 lengths in front of Mind Your Biscuits. Off as the 8-5 favorite under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, Sharp Azteca waited just off the speedy frontrunners before going three wide to take the lead. The Jorge Navarro trainee got the lead at the top of the stretch and continued to draw away down the lane, completing the one-turn mile on the fast main track in 1:35.17. Mind Your Biscuits finished second at 7-1, and Practical Joke was all-out from the rear of the field to finish third at 5-2.

“Everything with him is details,” said Navarro. “He came out tired. We paid attention to every little thing. We wanted to do the right thing. And 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?”

After Vulcan’s Forge, just to the outside of Sharp Azteca, was a bit unruly in the gate, the field all appeared to leave the start on even terms. Sharp Azteca was unfazed as Castellano allowed him to gun for the lead immediately. Heading down the chute, both Seymourdini and Americanize rushed up the inside to vie for that frontrunning position. Castellano was able to rate Sharp Azteca about two lengths behind those two frontrunners as they blazed through fractions of :22.78 and :45.97.

Behind Sharp Azteca was a three-length gap back to Summer Revolution, with Mind Your Biscuits a bit closer to the pace just behind him. Practical Joke brought up the rear of the 10-horse field, at least 10 lengths off the lead down the backstretch.

Rounding the far turn, Castellano let his reins out a notch and Sharp Azteca easily rounded up alongside his rivals while three-wide. Joel Rosario had moved Practical Joke up the rail from last to fifth position around the turn, but the colt appeared to hang a bit at the head of the lane. Irad Ortiz and Mind Your Biscuits were ready to make a big run around the outside, but got kicked a little wider than necessary around the final part of the turn and briefly lost their rhythm.

Sharp Azteca flew down the lane all on his own, and Castellano allowed him to win by 5 1/4 lengths at the finish. Mind Your Biscuits made a rally to get up for second, while Practical Joke regained his stride in mid-stretch to out-finish Americanize for third.

“It shows he can go a mile,” said trainer Chad Summers of runner-up Mind Your Biscuits. “I have all the respect in the world for Sharp Azteca. Just following him all year long, I knew that was the horse to beat. I thought it was a two-horse race. It was; he got the jump on us and beat us today. We’ll regroup from here for next year.”

Practical Joke was making his final career start in the Cigar Mile, and the son of Into Mischief will be retired to stand the 2018 season at Ashford Stud.

“I thought he ran a real solid race,” said Practical Joke’s trainer Chad Brown. “[It was] more of the same from him; a model of consistency. It was hard to make up ground today on this track. That said, the winner was very impressive, and I don’t think it would have mattered how the track was playing it looked like nobody was going to beat him today. Hats off to the winning connections. For Practical Joke that’s it. He’s been a really solid horse for us. I’m excited about his future as a stallion and look forward to training his offspring.”

Prior to the Cigar Mile, Sharp Azteca had finished second in Grade 1 company three times: in the 2016 Malibu behind Mind Your Biscuits, in the 2017 Met Mile behind Mor Spirit, and in his most recent start, in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile behind Battle of Midway.

“There was a lot of early speed with the horses in this race,” said Castellano. “I was really impressed by the way he [Sharp Azteca] 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. You don’t see too many horses do this; when they’re going too fast in the Breeders’ Cup, then they have a short rest and the way they perform today. A mile race against a good field of horses, I think he’s very impressive.”

Jorge Navarro soothes Sharp Azteca after his Cigar Mile victory

Bred in Kentucky by Cloyce C. Clark Jr., Sharp Azteca is out of the Saint Liam mare So Sharp. Originally a $35,000 yearling at the OBS August Sale, the colt commanded $220,000 at the OBS April 2-year-olds in training sale. It took until his third start for Sharp Azteca to break his maiden, but he got his first graded win in his fifth start, the G3 Pat Day Mile. The colt continued to add wins in G2 and G3 company to his resume, and was even third in Dubai’s Group 1 Godolphin Mile in March of 2017, but the top-level win eluded him until this Saturday.

“I bought him. I picked him,” Navarro said. “It means a lot [to win a Grade 1]. When the horse was a three-year-old, I mentioned that he was one of the top three-year-olds and another trainer came up to me and said ‘are you kidding, do you know what you are talking about?’ Here it is. He is the only [member of the 2016 three-year-old class] still around.”

Overall, Sharp Azteca’s record now stands at 8-5-1 from 16 starts with earnings of over $1.7 million. Navarro mentioned that the colt could start in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup next month at Gulfstream Park.

Watch the race replay here:

The post Sharp Azteca Finally Gets His Grade 1 Win In Cigar Mile appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

DYFD Winter - 300x90

Comments are closed.