ELMONT, N.Y. -- A few minutes before the Woodward Stakes, a noted Maryland breeder stood in the paddock at Belmont Park yesterday, looked at the 1-10 favorite Cigar and said, "It's like a meteorite dropped down on Country Life Farm."
The bay horse, who was foaled at the Harford County establishment five years ago, defeated Star Standard by 2 3/4 lengths in the $500,000 stakes, serving notice that he might be ready to join a pantheon of greats that includes Affirmed, Spectacular Bid and Seattle Slew.
Cigar's trainer, Bill Mott, usually isn't given to such pronouncements, but he mentioned those three horses in assessing Cigar's accomplishments after another seemingly effortless Grade I victory.
"I've watched a lot of very good horses," Mott said, naming the aforementioned trio, "and it seems to me Cigar wins with the same kind of ease. All you have to do is see that he's now won 10 [races] in a row, and that sort of proves it. Regardless of what he does from now on, he's got to be considered a great horse."
Winning jockey Jerry Bailey, who stalked the pace set by Star Standard yesterday, swept to the front on the final turn without breaking a sweat or hitting the horse with a whip. He feels that Cigar "dominates his races like Spectacular Bid."
Mott said he probably will run the horse in three weeks in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup and then wind up the season on Oct. 28 in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Classic.
Victories in both races would make Cigar a near-certain choice as Horse of the Year and give more than $4.5 million in 1995 earnings, which would surpass the record set by Sunday Silence in 1989.
But apparently, Cigar is not that much of a drawing card. About 20,000 people turned out at Belmont yesterday, 5,000 fewer than the number who showed up last year to watch Holy Bull win the Woodward by a greater margin (five lengths) and in a faster time. Holy Bull, now retired, ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1 minute, 46 4/5 seconds, two-fifths of a second faster than Cigar.
Still, there was no doubt yesterday of Cigar's appeal. Nearly $2 million was bet nationwide to show on the horse, creating a minus show pool of $335,607 at Belmont Park, believed to be the largest minus show pool ever compiled at any track in the country.
Cigar paid $2.20, $2.10 and $2.10.
If yesterday's "Super Saturday" card at Belmont stamped Cigar as a great horse -- and it certainly ranked him alongside the best Maryland-breds of all time -- it probably --ed the Breeders' Cup hopes of another state-bred.
He outran Chicago speedball Manilaman for the lead, but couldn't shake him loose although his jockey, Kent Desormeaux, said he was impressed by how relaxed he ran once he made the lead.
After being pressed by Manilaman for about a mile, Warning Glance gave way in the stretch and finished ninth in the 12-horse field, beaten 11 lengths by the winning Millkom.
Still, it can hardly be considered a poor effort. Last year's Breeders' Cup Turf winner, Pennsylvania-bred Tikkanen, finished eighth.
"It was not his race," said Tikkanen's owner, George Strawbridge. "He ran too close to the pace. He hadn't been out for 2 1/2 months, and he got tired."
Desormeaux told Janney he likes Warning Glance, "but if there's another speed horse in the race that presses him, he doesn't have enough left at the end."
Janney said Warning Glance hasn't accumulated any points (in graded races) that probably will be needed to qualify for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf, which is usually oversubscribed, especially with an expected abundance of European runners, such as the French-based Millkom.
"But there's not much for him in Maryland this fall," Janney said. "I think the only grass stakes for him is for $50,000. So I don't know what he'll do next."
Winners of the four other Breeders' Cup preview stakes on yesterday's card included the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Golden Attraction in the Matron Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.
Morton Rosenthal's homebred juvenile colt, Maria's Mon, came from off the pace for a 2 3/4 -length victory over Nick Zito-trained Louis Quatorze in the Futurity Stakes.
De Francis Dash winner Lite The Fuse spit out the bit (stopped) after leading for much of the way in the Vosburgh Stakes and ended up seventh in the Grade I sprint. Not Surprising won by a nose over You And I.
Ogden Phipps' Inside Information scored an 11-length victory over Unlawful Behavior in the Ruffian Handicap.
Redcall repeats in Damascus at Pimlico
Oliver Goldsmith's Redcall benefited from Janney's decision to try Grade I company with Warning Glance yesterday in New York, leading wire-to-wire to post a three-length victory in the $100,000 Damascus Handicap at a mile on the turf at Pimlico Race Course.
Redcall had been on the losing end against Warning Glance this summer when the two front-runners hooked up in Maryland grass stakes, so his job was considerably easier yesterday when Warning Glance skipped the race.
Redcall had won the 1994 Damascus, catapulting him into the lineup of the Washington D.C. International, where he was second to champion Paradise Creek.
Long shot Fanchee finished second by a head over Lost Soldier, who is part of the 30-horse string recently sent to Maryland by Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg.