All of Mott's most conservative instincts told him not to go, and he conjured up every argument to make his case—that the horse needed time, that they needed to point him for the Breeders' Cup Classic in the fall, that horses often do not do well shipping east to west in the pits of summer. At one point Mott told Paulson that he once trained a filly named Heatherten, who had won eight in a row, and that he got her beaten by shipping her to California for a race. "She got beat by 29 lengths," Mott told him.
"We're not talking about Heatherten here," Paulson told him. "We're talking about Cigar!"
Paulson kept the pressure on, of course, finally breaking Mott down by reminding him of a favorite business adage: "The risk is measured by the size of the reward. No risk, no reward."
So it was here that Mott gave in. Cigar was simply indomitable at 10 furlongs that day. On the first turn a flying clot of dirt struck him on the head. He shook it off, grabbed the bit and sailed for the lead. Going down the backside, Cigar was pulling so hard that Bailey was standing nearly straight. "Like I was waterskiing on him," Bailey says. "Then I just couldn't hold him anymore. He was pulling so hard that I couldn't feel my fingers until I turned him loose. I twirled my stick, and I didn't think I had it in my hand. It was numb."
Cigar won as he pleased, by 3½ lengths. As he hit the wire, Mott threw his arms around Paulson and yelled, "Thank you! Thank you!"
The Hollywood Gold Cup was, along with the Oaklawn Handicap, Cigar's greatest performance of the year. It was also the most grueling of his races, leaving him with an inflamed ankle and no interest in doing much of anything, but Mott gave him the time he needed and brought him back. Of course, Paulson called each day to check on Cigar's condition—ever on the muscle, the man wanted Cigar to run in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 13—but the horse had problems now, and there was no way Mott would force him back until he could withstand the pressure. By the time he returned, in the Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park on Sept. 16, Cigar had been away 11 weeks and was into the bit again. The break was just the seltzer that he needed. He went on to win three straight at Belmont Park, the Woodward, the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Breeders' Cup Classic, and they crowned a rarity for the highest levels of any sport: a perfect year.
Of course, 1995 represents Mott's signature year as a horse trainer—the season in which he brought the finest racehorse in America through an unflawed campaign waged over 10 months at six tracks. He and Paulson decided not to go through that again in 1996. "We've already proven what he can do here," Mott said last winter. "We are looking for new challenges."
They found more than they had bargained for. Cigar launched his '96 campaign in the Donn, winning easily by two, and he was heading for the Santa Anita Handicap in California on March 2 when Mott found the horse one morning standing in his stall and pointing his right toe. That abscess had formed on the inside of his right foot. Ultimately, Mott pulled off the shoe himself and lanced the abscess with a farrier's paring knife. The horse never left the shed for nearly two weeks, and the injury forced them to pass on Santa Anita. Mott had all he could do to get him ready for the cup, and that he chose to make the Dubai trip at all was a measure of his and Paulson's confidence in the horse. "If any horse can do it, Cigar can," Paulson said. "Dubai, here we come!"
The horse left Miami on March 16, shortly after blazing through a seven-furlong workout in 1:23[3/5] at Gulfstream, but he had problems acclimating to the desert, 7,000 jet-lagging miles from home. He was off his feed and not moving comfortably on the deep, tiring track at Nad Al Sheba. But Cigar gradually came around after Mott arrived on March 22, and by the morning of the race, he was trying to run off with his exercise rider, Tim Jones. "Cigar is back!" Mott crowed.
And just in time. Exactly 12 hours later, in front of a roaring crowd of more than 20,000 souls, in a part of the world that is the ancestral home of all thoroughbreds, there was this sleek and gritty bay making one last charge for the wire and defining for us all the very highest standard of the breed. Cigar was bearing history as well as Bailey on his back that night. He was, indubitably, the Horse of the World.