Sixteen and Counting: Here We Go Again

Randy ChristianCorrespondent IJuly 25, 2008

On a lazy Saturday afternoon at Del Mar Race Course in California in August, 1995, the late Allen Paulson, campaigner of the champion thoroughbred Cigar, plopped down in a heap on a stool just outside of his horse's stall.  "For the first time in seventeen races, Cigar has decided to turn down my offer of peppermints", he said.  Perhaps an hour earlier, an outsider named Dare and Go had taken an advantage given him by an Argentenian colt named Siphon. Siphon broke first from the gate in the Pacific Classic and double dared Cigar to come and get him.  Cigar did take the bait...and jockey Jerry Bailey will always defer the blame to his sole decision to tackle Siphon too early in this race at one and a quarter mile.  First Siphon ran out of gas...then Cigar yielded to Dare and Go.

At stake here...a North American thoroughbred record of winning 17 straight races.  As he loaded into the Del Mar gate that day, Cigar had run off 16 straight graded stakes victories.  After each of these wins, the horse was eager to find Allen Paulson walking towards his stall, hand in pocket.  Peppermints all around!  But, not today...

Sixteen and counting...

Five years before Cigar threatened this threshold, a young upstart of a horse emerged from South America unto the 1990 Triple Crown trail.  From Latin America, a lightly bred colt showed up in southern California in a fervor!  Trainer Laz Berrera give Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens the call once the colt arrived stateside.  After sweeping the west coast Derby prep races and heading to Louisville, KY, "Frisky" was set to make history on the largest platform 17 in a row the first Saturday in May as the Kentucky Derby favorite.

"Mrs. Genter, I love you!"  These were some of the words spoken to Frances Genter from trainer Carl Naftger as her home-bred colt Unbridled crushed a large field of 3 year olds, as the sun decided to show itself for the first time that chilly day.  Mr. Frisky checked in eighth and never won another race.


Sixteen and counting...

Five years after Cigar failed to fulfill his destiny, along came a filly from Cajun land, with Cajun connections and a whole Cajun nation ridin' her coat tails!  Enter Hallowed Dreams from the barn of Lloyd Romero and piloted by a south Louisianian with his own place in racing history...Sylvester Carmouche.  In 1990, jockey Carmouche was on a horse at Delta Downs.  Seems like the fog that night would rival that fog we saw in the movie..."The Fog" with Adrian Barbeau.  This young and impressionable jock decided to hide his mount in the fog on the backstretch after the start of a race. Being a 3 turn race, Sylvester waited until the field was headed to the finish line...and jump started his horse to run and appear to be the winner.  For his trouble, he was slapped with a 5 year suspension.

August 12, 2000 Hallowed Dreams was attempting to win her seventeenth straight race and set a north American record.  Up until now, the Malagra filly had been far the best in races at the Fair Grounds, Delta Downs, and Evangeline Downs...throw in a tough race at Louisiana Downs to tie the record shared with Citation, Cigar, and Mr. Frisky.  On that August day, this special filly broke from the gate in poor fashion and never recovered.

In her honor, it must be mentioned that "Dreams" won six more races in a row.  Suffice it to say, these races were of a serious nature.  Romero chose to keep her near her home ground, but did run her against good competition.

Sixteen in a row...and maybe...

Joe Allen, a lifelong Texas resident and horseman, is praying for good weather on Sunday in Ruidoso.  Specifically, Ruidoso Downs.  From her first race, Allen's special friend has gathered credibility and stature.  You see, there is a 5 year old mare under his care named Pepper's Pride.  Racing exclusively in New Mexico, jockey Carlos Maderia and trainer Joel Marr have orchestrated a conservative regimen for their charge.  Racing at Sunland Park, Zia Park, Sun Ray Park, and Ruidoso, Pepper's Pride has taken and beaten all comers.  The times have been fast and the weights NOT in "Pride's" favor.

Owner Allen says that the record will end his horse's active career.  "We would love to retire her undefeated, but more important, sound.  She has been so good to us.  We have had a little criticism for not running her in open company and running her in this or that and all of this other stuff.  But Joel said it the best...if it is that easy., I'm surprised there haven't been 100 of them like her."

In a Lexington, Kentucky horse park tonight, a wonderful and accomplished horse is propped on three feet relaxing and dreaming.  Maybe Cigar recalls those lucious peppermints in the past...after each win.  If Pepper's Pride wins on Sunday, it would be cool if Mr. Allen from Texas sends Cigar..."Pepper"mints.