Although he had ridden three of the previous four Classic winners (Black Tie Affair in '91, Arcangues in '93 and Concern last year), Bailey wanted this one more than any other. Yet, as he pulled on Paulson's red-white-and-blue silks, Bailey knew that Cigar would need his best effort, on a track that didn't suit him, against a field that included hard-knocking older horses such as Concern, Soul of the Matter, Unaccounted For and Tinners Way; a pair of late-blooming 3-year-olds in French Deputy and Peaks and Valleys; and a European import, Hailing, who had won eight in a row on the grass. "Too many strange things happen in this game," Bailey said, "but I knew I had the best horse."
One of those strange things happened when Bailey arrived in the paddock before the Classic. Everything was upbeat until the paddock blacksmith—at the request of Bobby Frankel, the trainer of Tinners Way—came up to Mott and said he had been asked to inspect Cigar's shoes. To protect the rear of Cigar's hooves, Mott had equipped his horse with shoes that protrude about an inch behind the hoof.
The shoes violated no rule, and in fact Cigar had worn them all year, so Mott felt that Frankel was trying to employ a little gamesmanship. "He was trying to claim foul or just be a crybaby, I guess," Mott said. Frankel later said that he had requested the check because the shoes looked unorthodox to him and he wasn't sure they were legal. So Mott did a slow burn while the blacksmith inspected Cigar's footwear, making the star of the show the last to leave the paddock.
From then on, however, it was Cigar's day. Again. When the starting gate sprang open, Cigar bolted from his outside post position, moving up and in and running third before the leader, Star Standard, had negotiated the first eighth of a mile. "He leaves the gate wanting to go to the lead, and usually I have to discourage him from doing that," Bailey said. "But this time I gave him his head. When he got up there, I had to spend the next three eighths of a mile trying to get him back. By that point I needed a little rest on my arms."
Through the first six furlongs of the mile-and-a-quarter race, Bailey and Cigar were content to stay third or fourth, stalking the pace. But as the field galloped into the far turn, Cigar made a breathtaking move that gave him the lead at the quarter pole. Said Bailey, "Unaccounted For was starting to make his run on the inside, so Cigar was ready to go for the lead, and I was ready for him to take me. Cigar is so fluid and so efficient that the only way you know you're going faster is when you look over and see you're going past everyone."
As Cigar turned down the lane and headed for home, the only question was whether anybody could catch him. The long shot L'Carriere tried, leaving the pack to make a belated charge, but he was never a threat. At the wire Cigar's margin was a comfortable 2� lengths. He became, at 3-5, the shortest-price favorite to win the Classic, and his time of 1:59.58 was a Classic record.
And now what? If all goes well, a 6-year-old Cigar could go from being America's horse to being the world's horse. Mott and Paulson would love to take him to the Persian Gulf and run him next March 26 in the $4 million Dubai Classic, which will replace the Breeders' Cup Classic as the world's richest race. But Bailey, who came to the postrace press conference with his teeth clinched on a cigar that a fan had given him, was interested only in savoring the moment.
"I don't know if this was his best race," Bailey said, "but it was his most important race. He did it the same way we've seen him do it so many times before. I don't know if he can duplicate this year. I don't know if that's possible for him or anybody else."