It may be late in the 2012 racing season, but Saturday's $350,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct has a field of seven that would rival any mid-year stakes.
Included in the field are current Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Groupie Doll, Donn Handicap champ Hymn Book, 2010 Cigar Mile winner Jersey Town, 2011 Travers winner Stay Thirsty and Coil, winner of last year's Haskell Invitational.
Groupie Doll, trained and co-owned by Buff Bradley, is the only filly in the race, but has been made the 8-5 morning line favorite off her decisive Breeders' Cup victory at Santa Anita on Nov. 3.
"I wasn't looking for another race for her; I wasn't looking for a race against boys," said Bradley.
The 4-year-old chestnut filly was the 7-10 favorite in the 10-horse Sprint field. Ridden by Rajiv Maragh, who has Saturday's mount, Groupie Doll stalked the pace in the seven-furlong stakes and went on to register a 4 1/2-length win in a time of 1:20.72.
Set to break from the outside post in the Cigar, Groupie Doll was second against males in a Gulfstream Park optional claimer in January followed by a pair of thirds in Gulfstream stakes.
The filly, who was bred by Bradley and his father, won Keeneland's Vinery Madison and Churchill Downs' Humana Distaff in the spring. After a four month rest, Groupie Doll captured the Presque Isle Downs Masters and Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes.
Hymn Book has drawn post five with Joel Rosario riding for owner Stuart Janney and trainer Shug McGaughey. Kept out of the Breeders' Cup, the 6-year-old gelding is coming off a win in the Pancho Martin Stakes at Belmont Park last month.
"He had a good race and came out of it good, and if the race develops in front of him, he'll be fine. I have all the respect in the world for Groupie Doll, but she's a filly against colts and she has to ship," McGaughey said.
Hymn Book, 6-1 in the program, was second in last year's Cigar Mile behind To Honor and Serve and came back in February to win the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream. However, he remained winless until taking last month's stakes at Belmont.
Jersey Town, trained by Barclay Tagg for Charles Fipke, is the 4-1 third pick for the Cigar even with one win this year. The 6-year-old will have Javier Castellano riding.
The chestnut horse's lone victory this year came in the Kelso at Saratoga by 3 1/2-lengths over Shackleford. He was fifth to Tapizar in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at odds of 9-2.
"The whole Breeders' Cup was weird," said Tagg. "There were two horses picked over him (sixth-place finisher Emcee and seventh-place finisher Shackleford). He beat both of them, and yet he didn't get anything. I don't think he liked the two turns particularly. They're tight, little turns there, and maybe he didn't like them."
Trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle Mike Repole's Stay Thirsty for the Cigar with the 4-year-old colt breaking from the inside post with Ramon Dominguez riding.
"It would be a huge win for him," Pletcher said of the Cigar Mile. "For a horse that's already accomplished a lot, especially a Travers winner, to also show the versatility to win at a mile would be a feather in his cap."
Stay Thirsty is looking for his first win since claiming both the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga last year. He set the pace in the Jockey Club Gold Cup two months ago before losing by a head to Flat Out.
Trainer Bob Baffert ships Coil to Aqueduct from California for the colt's first East Coast start since winning last year's Haskell at Monmouth Park. The 4-year-old, owned by Mike Pegram, is 8-1 in the morning line and will be ridden by Martin Garcia from post six.
Coil captured the Santa Anita Sprint Championship over Capital Account before finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Sprint to Trinniberg. In August he was second to Capital Account in the Pat O'Brien Stakes at Del Mar.
Completing the field are Associate (20-1) and Buffum (6-1).