What I remember is far more than dry statistics. I remember watching Cigar snoozing in the saddling paddock and sleepwalking toward the starting gate as if he'd rather be somewhere else. Anywhere else. I remember thinking, more than once, that Cigar wouldn't run well, he didn't look lively enough in the pre-race. And then, in the gate, his ears would prick forward and he'd come out running.
I remember that Cigar ran as an older horse. He was proof to me that sometimes, change is a good thing. You see, originally, Cigar was a turf horse. He didn't race on dirt because his pedigree said he shouldn't. But he wasn't very good on the grass. At three, he won only two of nine starts. Then he was sent to Bill Mott's barn, and after two losses on the turf, Bill switched him to dirt. And lightning struck. Cigar won that race on the dirt by eight lengths. He didn't lose another race for almost two years.
He won the Breeder's Cup Classic. He won the inaugural Dubai World Cup. He captured the heart of racing's fandom and won Horse of the Year honors twice. All that, because a trainer saw that something was working and switched Cigar to the dirt. I followed Cigar's races with an obsessive interest. I cheered his wins and sighed over his losses toward the end of his career.
He was one of the greats of the sport, and now all we have are memories of a beautiful athlete who gave his all.
I leave you with a link to one of his most iconic races:
The 1995 Breeder's Cup Classic