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Oct 10, 2014

Racing great Cigar dies at age 24


Lexington, KY ( - Hall of Fame thoroughbred Cigar has died at the age of 24.

A former two-time Horse of the Year, Cigar passed away after surgery at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital. The stallion had been living at the Kentucky Horse Park.

"Cigar had been experiencing arthritis-related health issues over the past six months and was in outstanding physical and mental condition other than the osteoarthritis he was suffering from in several of his cervical vertebrae," said Kathy Hopkins, director of equine operations for the Kentucky Horse Park. "Medical therapies had failed to relieve the pressure that the arthritis was causing on his spine, which had resulted in instability in his hind legs."

Cigar was owned by Allen Paulson and trained by Bill Mott with Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey serving as his primary rider. The horse was named Horse of the Year in 1995 and 1996, as well as champion older male thoroughbred for those years, and was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2002.

"The great champion Cigar thrilled racing fans and surely brought new ones to the sport as he compiled win after win in his incredible streak of victories," said Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear. "An example of racing at its best, he continued to serve as an ambassador, bringing joy to countless visitors to the Hall of Champions at the Kentucky Horse Park, where he will be missed."

The future champion began racing as a 3-year-old in 1993, but did not win his first stakes race until capturing the NYRA Mile at Aqueduct in November 1994. The stakes is now called the Cigar Mile in his honor.

Cigar had a 16-race winning streak from October 1994 through July 1996 that included victories in the first running of the Dubai World Cup in 1996, 1995 Breeders' Cup Classic, two Donn and Massachusetts Handicaps, Hollywood Gold Cup and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

The champion was retired from racing after finishing second in the 1996 Jockey Club Gold Cup and third in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He closed his Hall of Fame career with 19 wins, 15 in stakes, from 33 starts with then- record earnings of $9,999,815.

"Cigar was an incredible horse who left an everlasting mark on the racing world," said Ted Nicholson, interim executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park. "We are honored that Cigar was able to spend so many years of his life here at the park where he was visited by so many fans and will always be remembered."

Cigar was sent to Coolmore in Versailles, Kentucky as a stallion, but he was found to be infertile and was transferred to the Kentucky Horse Park in 1999.

Like the other Hall of Champions horses who died in retirement at the park, Cigar will be buried on the Memorial Walk of Champions near thoroughbreds Alysheba, Bold Forbes, Forego, John Henry and Kona Gold; standardbreds Cam Fella and Rambling Willie; American Saddlebreds CH Imperator, CH Skywatch and CH Gypsy Supreme; and American Quarter Horse Sgt. Pepper Feature.

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