When the great racehorse Cigar, 24, crossed the rainbow bridge on Oct. 7 from complications following surgery on his neck for severe osteoarthritis, the world mourned. You didn’t have to be a racing enthusiast to know about Cigar, two-time Eclipse Horse of the Year who recorded a 16-race winning streak. Many visitors to Kentucky Horse Park “met” Cigar, because he moved into KHP’s Hall of Champions after his retirement from racing in 1999. Cigar became a favorite of visitors. He was everything a Thoroughbred should embody: the look of eagles, magnificent body and a great mind. We grieved for the great horse, but he left a legacy and memories that will live forever.
Cigar received many tributes by the press in every form of media, and we wanted to write about him and include links to these accolades and eulogies, but we held off. After all. Sidelines is a general interest equestrian magazine, read primarily by folks involved in hunters, jumpers, eventing, dressage, and polo. We held off – we wanted the perfect way to pay our respects to Cigar and his connections.
Odd, how the pieces click together: we had an assignment to write about a “grande dame” of racing here in the USA and across the Atlantic – Magalyn O. Bryant, of Middleburg VA, owner and breeder of Thoroughbred racehorses running on the flat and over fences. whose 3-year-old, V.E. Day, had scored an upset to win the $1.25-million Travers (Grade 1) Stakes at Saratoga. Bryant isn’t into limelight basking and, denied an interview, we set about talking with various people connected directly through the horses. We also read everything we could find on the internet about the Travers, about Bryant, and hours of research paid off when we discovered a wonderful piece in the Blood-Horse by Steve Haskins about the 2014 Travers. We contacted him, asking permission to quote with attribution bits and pieces of his conversation (we won’t call it an interview per se) with Bryant in the Founders Room at Saratoga, following the race and subsequent press conference. Sheer magic — wonderful writing, and a great enhancement to our story.
So, with our treasured primary laptop traveling south to West Palm Beach, Florida to Experimac to get its hard drive replaced, we returned to our older, first-ever workhorse macbook, purchased in 2008 and retired in winter 2014 to an easier life. Of course, so many stories since then, so much water under the bridge literally and figuratively, and we thought we would see what Steve Haskins had been writing about the forthcoming Breeders Cup in which V.E. Day would join the ranks of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome (to name just one of the 14 horses to contend the Breeders Cup Classic. While we sipped our coffee, we decided to spend some time looking back through recent “Hanging With Haskin” posts for the Blood-Horse — and we fell over two gems about Cigar. See, bet you thought this was a major digression with no concluding point in sight! NUH UH!
Haskin’s Farewell to Cigar begins with Steve Haskin harking back to his favorite memories of Cigar. He starts with November 1996 when Madeline Paulsen, Cigar’s owner, decided she wanted to share her great horse with her many friends in the horse show world. In case you missed the link -here it is again – Haskin: Farewell to Cigar – the first part is all about Cigar’s visit to the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden, but the entire tribute to Cigar is worth reading all the way to the end. It is moving, eloquent and offers personal glimpses of this champion.
We love Thoroughbreds. Our next horse will be an OTTB – we will look for a horse that retired sound from racing, has a great mind, steady temperament and willingness to please (standard requirements in a horse, but describes a good TB to a tee) – oh, and good feet (no foot, no horse). Most of all, we want that look of eagles. Thoroughbreds are bred to run, but they make great riding horses, be it pleasure and trail to eventing to H/J, to polo and pony club – the sky is the limit.
RIP Cigar, may you lead the field in heavenly pasture dashes: you were a great racehorse and a superb ambassador for Thoroughbreds and racing at Kentucky Horse Park.