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Cigar Street Scores First Stakes Victory in Skip Away
Rashard Lewis and Jake Ballis’ 4-year-old Cigar Street shed a little brightness on to a theretofore disappointing Saturday afternoon for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s powerful stable when he posted his third consecutive victory in the $100,000 Skip Away Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park to give jockey John Velazquez his fourth victory on the card.
While Mott was in Dubai saddling two-time champion mare Royal Delta to a 10th-place finish in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G`1) and Miami Heat forward Rashard Lewis was on a road trip with the team, assistant trainer Ken McCarthy saddled Cigar Street for a two-length victory over WinStar Farm and Chuck and Maribeth Sandford’s 2012 Florida Derby (G1) hero Take Charge Indy in the 1 3/16 miles test.
“This helps,” said McCarthy. “It was a little rough for us (Mott stable) watching Dubai earlier and then some of our other horses here today didn’t perform up to expectations. We’ve always thought a lot of this horse.
“Johnny (Velazquez) let him run a little bit out of the gate early to get position for the first turn and then he went on from there to beat some very nice, more seasoned horses like Pat Byrne’s (Take Charge Indy). I think he’ll probably go to Kentucky from here.”
Take Charge Indy set the pace from the start in the Skip Away with Cigar Street stalking in third up the backstretch and into the far turn before rallying alongside. From the top of the stretch it was a two-horse race to the finish after Lori and George Hall’s Pants On Fire retired to third after prompting the pace, 6 ¾ lengths behind the winner.
A son of Street Sense, Cigar Street paid $5.60 for $2 to win as the favorite and was timed in 1:56:84 over the ‘fast’ track. Cigar Street had won two allowance races earlier for Mott after making three starts last year, including a fourth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2. The Skip Away was Cigar Street’s first stakes victory.
"There are no limits to this horse,” said Velazquez. “He's doing everything really well. With every race he's stepping up more and more. He has a big future so hopefully he stays sound."