On October 7, 2014, the racing world lost one of its equine heroes as two-time Horse of the Year, Cigar, died at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington from complications following surgery for osteoarthritis in his neck. He had spent his retirement years at the Hall of Champions at the Kentucky Horse Park, and he will be buried on the Memorial Walk of Champions joining Alysheba, Bold Forbes, Forego, John Henry, and Kona Gold.
Bred in Maryland for turf by owner Allen Paulson, the son of Palace Music out of Seattle Slew mare Solar Slew started his career in California, but when moved east to the barn of Bill Mott, that Hall of Fame trainer decided to test him on the dirt and clearly he found his home. He started an impressive winning streak of 16 straight races, the first horse to do so since Citation, and capped off a perfect 10-for-10 season in 1995 with the Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park. As he crossed the finish line, track announcer Tom Durkin called him “the incomparable, invincible, unbeatable Cigar” in one of the most memorable race calls of Durkin's recently-ended career in the booth. He easily earned his first of two Horse of the Year titles.
In 1996, he picked up where he left off, including the inaugural Dubai World Cup and a second win in the Donn Handicap (G1). After matching Citation's record 16 wins at Arlington Park, he shipped to Del Mar for the Pacific Classic in August, where he suffered his first defeat since October of 1994, finishing behind Dare and Go. Returning home to New York, he won the Woodward for the second year in a row, but was defeated by racing's next superhorse, 3-year-old Skip Away, in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and then finished a valiant third beaten a nose and head behind Alphabet Soup and Louis Quatorze in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Woodbine.
He retired to stud with 19 wins, 4 seconds, and 5 thirds in 33 starts, earning a North American record $9,999,815, just short of the mythical $10 million mark. No other horse had come close since until Curlin finally broke through in 2008. You can view his lifetime past performances here.
Unfortunately, he failed to impregnate a mare during his first season at Coolmore's Ashford Stud in Kentucky in 1998. Found to be infertile, his ownership was turned over to Italian insurance company Assicurazoni Generali who loaned him to the Kentucky Horse Park in 1999. He shared the spotlight with long time resident John Henry, and then took over as the star after John Henry died in 2007. Cigar was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2002, joining his jockey Jerry Bailey (inducted 1995) and trainer Bill Mott (1998).
- Cigar at the Pacific Classic
- Cigar at Ashford Stud in 1998
- Cigar at Turfway in 2000 - his first and only appearance at a race track after he retired
- Cigar at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2009
- The Cigar statue at Gulfstream Park - it was removed when they rebuilt the grandstand the current location is unknown
Some of his big wins:
- Dubai World Cup (G1) - 1996
- Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) - 1995
- Woodward Stakes (G1) - 1995 and 1996
- Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) - 1995, 2nd in 1996
- Oaklawn Handicap (G2) - 1995
- Pimlico Special (G3) - 1995
- Donn Handicap (G1) - 1995 and 1995
- Gulfstream Park Handicap (G1) - 1995
- NYRA Mile (G1) - 1994 (Now named the Cigar Mile)
- Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) - 1995
- Massechusetts Handicap - 1995 and 1996