(True Timber / Chelsea Durand Photo & Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

  • G1 Cigar Mile champ True Timber to target G1 Pegasus World Cup or Saudi Cup
  • Malathaat on the Kentucky Oaks trail after G2 Demoiselle score
  • Velazquez considering options for G2 Remsen champ Brooklyn Strong
  • New York-bred Sharp Starr bursts to victory in G3 Go for Wand
  • Aqueduct winter meet Week 1 stakes probables

Cigars and timber are not usually a good pairing. But Calumet Farm’s True Timber proved his talent at the highest level with a 5 1/2-length win over Snapper Sinclair in Saturday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trainer Jack Sisterson said True Timber will fly to Keeneland on Monday and could start preparations for another challenging race, with the nine-furlong Grade 1, $3 million Pegasus World Cup on January 23 a possibility, along with the nine-furlong $20 million Saudi Cup on February 20 at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh.

“He’s going on 7 [years old] and I don’t want to take away what he loves to do, which is train and run,” Sisterson said. “He’s not slowing down any. You need to capitalize. We’ll look to bring him down to Palm Meadows in Florida and look at the Pegasus race form. We’ve also been invited to the Saudi Cup. We’ll look at options like that and stretch him out. It’ll be the first time around two turns for us, so we’ll train him a little differently and see if he takes to that, and we’ll go from there.”

True Timber registered his first win since September 2018, earning a trip to the winner’s circle for the first time in 14 starts. The son of Mineshaft capped his 6-year-old year by capturing a race in which he’s come close in the past, having run second by three-quarters of a length to Patternrecognition in 2018 and third in 2019 to Maximum Security.

“For True Timber, what impressed me the most was proving to people that he could win a big race and do it impressively,” said Sisterson. “He showed us in the morning that he has such a will to compete at a level like that. But from the outside looking in, the general public may have questioned his talent. He put forth his best effort, which we knew he had, yesterday.”

True Timber gave both his rider and conditioner an early Christmas gift. Jockey Kendrick Carmouche, who has been riding professionally since 2000, earned his first career Grade 1 victory after piloting the bay Kentucky bred.

The victory also marked the second career Grade 1 score for Sisterson, who took over True Timber’s training duties this summer when Kiaran McLaughlin retired to become a jockey agent. Sisterson, who started on his own as a trainer in 2018, previously won the Personal Ensign with Vexatious this summer at Saratoga Race Course.

True Timber graduated at second asking in December 2016 on the Big A inner track with Carmouche in the irons. The pair have partnered up on nine occasions for a record of 3-1-3. Carmouche entered Sunday’s Closing Day leading Jose Lezcano by four wins for the fall meet’s leading rider.

“It means a lot for me for my staff who does all the hard work and to have someone like Kendrick say he’d ride them back, it gave us a lot of confidence and means a lot,” Sisterson said. “To be able to team up and win a race like that, it’s been a long time coming but a well-deserved victory for Kendrick, who is a talented jockey and deserves a win like that. I didn’t give him any instructions. He just told me, ‘I got you, brother,’ before the race in a text. We are just fortunate enough to add one victory to what is hopefully a riding title for him.”

Though True Timber was on a winless streak, he still registered competitive efforts against top-flight competition, including a third in the Grade 1 Forego on August 29 over a sloppy Saratoga track. With the Cigar Mile being contested over another sloppy and sealed track, Sisterson said that experience proved beneficial in preparing him to take dirt, as he tracked in third position through the opening half-mile on Saturday behind pacesetter Mr. Buff and King Guillermo.

“I think what benefitted him the most yesterday was his outside position,” said Sisterson on True Timber leaving from post 5 in the six-horse field. “We learned in his training and in the runs that he had, he doesn’t like being shut on the inside. We don’t work him on the inside in company; he’s always on the outside, and he breezes like a happy horse and trains like a happy horse on the outside.

“He ran a credible race in the Forego and I think if he was on the outside and not pressured, he might have hung around to not be beat as far, but he still finished a good third. I think his outside position yesterday really helped him out.”

Sisterson’s other Cigar Mile entrant, Bon Raison, finished last of six but came out of the effort in good order. The 5-year-old son of Raison d’Etat entered off a 10th-place finish in last month’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland and will now receive a freshening after running nine times in 2020.

“We took a shot. He’s a homebred and a beautiful horse who has talent and I think as a plan for him moving forward, he’ll get a well-deserved break,” Sisterson said. “We think he has a few nice wins in him. Maybe not at that sort of caliber, but if we pick and choose our spots, we can bring him back in the springtime and have some fun with him next year.”

Also owned by Calumet, Bon Raison won against optional claimers on October 16 going six furlongs against optional claimers at Keeneland.

Malathaat on the Kentucky Oaks trail after G2 Demoiselle score

The ability to overcome adversity and will to win were on full display in Saturday’s nine-furlong Grade 2, $150,000 Demoiselle for juvenile fillies at the Big A, when Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat overcame unfavorable circumstances with a furious rally to make the grade in her third career start.

Breaking from the rail under Hall of Famer John Velazquez, Malathaat appeared to be uncomfortable taking some kickback when in behind horses, but allowed her class to prevail with a five-wide move around the turn as she collared Millefeuille in the final strides.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he was impressed with the winning effort.

“She had to overcome a lot. I was proud of her for persevering,” Pletcher said. “When she got in the clear, she put in a strong run. It was an impressive performance considering all the adversity along the road.”

In winning the Demoiselle, Malathaat earned 10 qualifying points toward the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, scheduled for April 30, 2021 at Churchill Downs. Pletcher said he would like to give her two starts prior to the Oaks, which he won with Ashado (2004), Rags to Riches (2007) and Princess of Sylmar (2013).

Pletcher said the Curlin bay would ship to his winter division at Palm Beach Downs in South Florida this week

“She’ll ship to Palm Beach Downs early this week and we’ll give her an easy month. I don’t know what her next target will be, we’ll just see how she’s doing,” Pletcher said. “Ideally, we would be looking at two races prior to the Kentucky Oaks if everything goes according to plan.”

Unbeaten in all three of her starts, Malathaat gave Velazquez his 2,000th victory at Belmont Park with a 1 ¾-length win in a seven-furlong maiden special weight on October 9 at Belmont Park. She mirrored her winning ways into stakes company when leading at every point of call to take the one-mile Tempted on November 6 at Aqueduct. The Demoiselle was her first start going two turns.

Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, Malathaat is the first offspring out of the Grade 1-winning A.P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia, who also was conditioned by Pletcher. She was bought for $1.05 million at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Her triumph in the Demoiselle made her a third generation graded stakes winner. Her maternal granddam Dream Rush was a four-time graded stakes winner, including the Grade 1 Test in 2007 at Saratoga.

“She’s shown that she’s special from very early on,” Pletcher said. “It’s very hard to win three consecutive races and she’s done it at three different distances now at Belmont, and over a sloppy track at Aqueduct. I’m not sure that she really relished the going but she still was able to keep finding a little more and I was proud of the effort.”

Pletcher also sent out Known Agenda for the Grade 2 Remsen, where he finished a distant third to Brooklyn Strong.

Like Malathaat, Remsen third-place finisher Known Agenda also appeared to not handle the sloppy going on Saturday, where he picked up two Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

Pletcher said he was still pleased with the effort from the Curlin chestnut out of Grade 1-winner Byrama. Owned by Vincent Viola’s St. Elias Stable, Known Agenda notched a second out maiden triumph at the Remsen’s nine-furlong distance on November 8 at the Big A.

“He was never comfortable and finally when he got out late in the clear he found some ground. His last quarter was pretty much the same time as the previous two, it’s just at the quarter pole he was in a hopeless position,” Pletcher said. “Part of it is immaturity, greenness and not relishing the sloppy conditions. I still think he’s a horse with some upside. He’s still putting it together. I think a race like that and the experience he gained hopefully will move him forward, so we’ll take him down to Florida as well. We’ll target some of these Derby preps. There are a lot of good options. We’ll play it by ear.”

Shadwell Stable’s Mutasaabeq graduated in August at 5 1/2-furlongs ahead of a third in the seven-furlong Grade 1 Hopeful, both on the Saratoga main track. The Into Mischief bay made his last two starts on the Keeneland turf, winning the Grade 2 Bourbon on October 4 and a last out 10th in the Grade 1 Breeders’ cup Juvenile Turf.

Pletcher said Mutasaabeq could go back to the main track for the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man on January 2 at Gulfstream Park.

“We’re thinking about the Mucho Macho Man with him and give him another try on the dirt,” Pletcher said. “He’s been training pretty well on the dirt, so we’ll explore that. We can always go back to the turf if we need to.

“We were very fortunate to be able to train for them. It’s a tremendous organization,” Pletcher added regarding Shadwell Stable. “It’s been an honor and a pleasure and it’s nice to have some good horses for them. We’ve been fortunate to win three graded stakes so far this year with them.”

Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable and Stonestreet Stables’ Likeable, 13th in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last out, and worked a half-mile in 51.40 on November 25 at Palm Beach Downs.

“We have a lot of options for him, including an allowance race. We’ll get him started around the first of January. We’ll see what the new condition book at Gulfstream has to offer,” Pletcher said.

Velazquez considering options for G2 Remsen champ Brooklyn Strong

Trainer Daniel Velazquez, who secured his first graded stakes win with Brooklyn Strong in Saturday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Remsen at the Big A, is considering a next spot with the son of second-crop sire Wicked Strong.

Brooklyn Strong battled gamely to the outside of Ten for Ten down the Aqueduct stretch, getting the better of his foe by a neck under jockey Joel Rosario.

With a triumph in the nine-furlong event for juveniles, Brooklyn Strong earned 10 qualifying points toward the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby scheduled for May 1, 2021 at Churchill Downs.

Brooklyn Strong returned to Delaware Park following the win and will eventually ship to Parx Racing, where the conditioner keeps a stable of about 20 horses.

Velazquez said he will consider all options for Brooklyn Strong, including the nine-furlong Grade 3, $250,000 Withers on February 6 at Aqueduct, which offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.

“We were so excited. We knew going in that it would be a step up in class against open company and he proved us right,” Velazquez said. “Right now, we just want to make sure we come back healthy. We’ll give him a week or two to decompress, maybe Florida, maybe the Withers. We have options, it’s just a matter if figuring out what’s best.”

Velazquez learned the ropes under his father Alfredo Velazquez, who saddled Private Zone to Grade 1 victories in the 2014 Vosburgh and Cigar Mile.

Prior to the Remsen, he saddled Brooklyn Strong to a victory in the Sleepy Hollow on Empire Showcase Day, October 24 at Belmont Park and won the Maid of the Mist with Laobanonaprayer the same day.

“It’s been getting better and better. A lot of hard work going into it,” Velazquez said. “It’s almost unbelievable, we’re all still shell shocked. We’re excited.”

Brooklyn Strong, bred in New York by Cheryl Prudhomme and Dr. Michael Gallivan, was purchased by owner Mark Schwartz for $5,000 from OBS April 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale from the Coastal Equine consignment. He is out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Riviera Chic.

New York-bred Sharp Starr bursts to victory in G3 Go for Wand

Barry K. Schwartz’s homebred Sharp Starr, a neck winner of the Grade 3 Go for Wand Handicap, was one of three New York-breds to pick up graded-stakes wins on Saturday joining Brooklyn Strong [Grade 2 Remsen] and Varda [Grade 1 Starlet at Los Alamitos].

The victory in the one-turn mile for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up provided 35-year-old trainer Horacio DePaz with his first graded stakes win.

“I’m very happy for the filly. She’s really developed,” said DePaz. “The owner was thrilled. We’ve always thought highly of the filly and she’s really coming around. Obviously, he bred her and owns the mare, so he was really happy.”

With Jose Ortiz up, Sharp Starr tracked in second position, a length back of older eight-time winner Portal Creek, piloted by Kendrick Carmouche, before engaging in a stirring stretch duel over the sloppy and sealed main track.

“I was happy with the position she got,” said DePaz. “She broke clean and was able to get into the race and then Jose did a really good job of judging the pace. We were really concerned about Kendrick’s filly getting loose on the lead. She was the only one that showed speed like that and the way the track was playing, we didn’t want her to get too far away and leave us with too much to do. Jose rode her really well and judged it really well. It was a thriller down the stretch.”

Sharp Starr, who has overcome a tendency to start slowly, graduated in July at Belmont Park and hit the board in a pair of nine-furlong events going two turns over the summer at Saratoga Race Course, including a closing third in the restricted Fleet Indian.

The dark bay was off-the-board in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan in October at Pimlico Race Course before finding winning form in a 15 3/4-length score in a one-turn mile against state-breds on November 7 at the Big A that garnered a 101 Beyer Speed Figure.

DePaz said the extended sprint distance suits Sharp Starr with a pair of one-mile events at the Big A – the open $125,000 Heavenly Prize on March 6 and $100,000 Biogio’s Rose for state-breds on March 7 – under consideration.

“I’d like to keep her at the one-turn mile. I’ll have to talk to the owner and see,” said DePaz. “She’s great this morning. She’s bright, alert. She ate up was sound on the road and no worse for wear.”

Sharp Starr’s 2-year-old half-brother V Pattern, by Street Sense and out of the A.P. Indy mare Mindy Gold, continues to develop for DePaz. He earned a 46 Beyer in his lone start when sixth in a 6 1/2-furlong state-bred maiden special weight on October 18 at Belmont.

“He started once and it was too short for him but he got a good experience out of it,” said DePaz. “He also didn’t break the sharpest in that race but made a run at the end. He can hopefully move forward from that.”

Aqueduct winter meet Week 1 stakes probables

Saturday, December 12

$100,000 Alex M. Robb

Probable: Bankit (Steve Asmussen), City Man (Christophe Clement), Danny California (Orlando Noda), Sea Foam (Christophe Clement)

Possible: Evaluator (H. James Bond)

Sunday, December 13

$100,000 Bay Ridge

Probable: Firenze Freedom (Kelly Breen), Lucky Move (Juan Carlos Guerrero), Mrs. Orb (Michael Miceli)

Possible: Kilkea (Mark Hennig), Maiden Beauty (Tony Dutrow)