Weather Report Makes Cigar Mile A Gameday Decision For Firenze Fire, Mind Control

Trainer Kelly Breen said Mr. Amore Stable’s multiple graded-stakes winner Firenze Fire may look for other options should Saturday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Cigar Mile be contested over a sloppy main track at Aqueduct Racetrack.

“He’s doing well but right now the main concern is the weather. If the track is sloppy, I don’t think we’re going to run,” said Breen. “There are a couple of other options for him.

“But if the rain misses us, we’re running,” added Breen. “He’s ready to go.”

Firenze Fire has won at one mile on three occasions, including the 2017 Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont; the 2018 Grade 3 Dwyer on Big Sandy; and the 2018 Jerome at the Big A.

Last out, the 5-year-old Poseidon’s Warrior bay rallied from 11th to finish third in the six-furlong Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 7 at Keeneland Racetrack under Jose Lezcano.

Breen said he expects the stretch out in distance to help his horse.

“I do, especially off his closing race at the Breeders’ Cup. I think it should not be a problem,” said Breen.

Breen took over training duties for Firenze Fire earlier this year and has saddled the horse to a record of two wins from six starts, including Grade 2 scores in the True North on June 27 and Vosburgh Invitational on Sept. 26, both contested on a fast Belmont main track.

Two of Firenze Fire’s losses for Breen came in Grade 1 events – the Runhappy Carter Handicap at Belmont and the Forego presented by America’s Best Racing at Saratoga – on sloppy tracks.

Lezcano retains the mount from post 4.

Mind Control won’t be doing his best Gene Kelly impersonation if the expected rainy forecast comes to fruition for Saturday’s Grade 1 Cigar Mile, with trainer Gregg Sacco saying on Friday that inclement weather will likely cause him to scratch out of the test for 3-year-olds and up that highlights four-graded stakes over Aqueduct Racetrack’s main track.

The last two times Mind Control has run over sloppy tracks have not resulted in good efforts, with the 4-year-old Stay Thirsty colt running eighth in the seven-furlong Grade 1 Forego on August 29 at Saratoga Race Course and sixth in the Grade 1 Carter on June 6 at Belmont Park. Both of those efforts saw Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez try to cajole the five-time graded stakes-winner to no avail.

“It’s just not in the game plan for him,” Sacco said. “The few times we did try it, they were just nightmares. Johnny said he spins his wheels and just doesn’t get a hold of the track.”

The multiple Grade 1-winner is coming off a ninth-place effort in the seven-furlong Lafayette on November 7 at Keeneland. But Sacco said he has trained forwardly at his Belmont base since then, including a four-furlong work in 48.85 seconds on Sunday.

“He’s been right on cue and has been full of himself and he really loves training at Belmont,” Sacco said. “His energy level was high. We were happy with everything coming into this race.”

Mind Control has thrived at the Big A, winning four of his five races with a runner-up effort in the other contest. Three of his graded stakes scores have come at the Ozone Park-based track, including the 2019 Grade 3 Bay Shore and this year’s edition of the Grade 3 Toboggan and Grade 3 Tom Fool.

“It’s unfortunate because he’s training as good as ever and came out of the last race well,” Sacco said. “We were just hoping for a fast track and a little wetness on the track isn’t the end of the world, but if the forecast holds true, it doesn’t look like we’ll be running tomorrow.”

Owned by Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stables, Mind Control is 7-2-3 in 17 career starts with earnings of more than $1.04 million.

“Everyone’s in the same boat. It’s part of the game and as trainers we take the good with the bad,” Sacco said. “The main thing is that he’s 100 percent sound and his weight is good and his coat is good and he’s going to run as a 5-year-old, so we look forward to that.”

Sacco said he hasn’t picked out a definitive spot for his seasonal debut after the near year, but said a return engagement for the Grade 1 Carter, where he ran sixth in June at Belmont, is a possibility.

“I think the first big goal of 2021 is the Carter,” Sacco said.

Mind Control drew post 2 in the nine-horse field with Velazquez slated to ride. He is one of four horses listed as 20-1 on the morning line, joining Snapper Sinclair, Majestic Dunhill and Bon Raison.

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