(Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin trains True Timber)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Calumet Farm’s True Timber and Shadwell Stable’s Ajaaweed breezed in company on Saturday as the talented contingent for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin continued their preparation for the Cigar Mile Day card on December 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

True Timber was the runner-up in last year’s Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile and will look to make the next step up in this year’s running. The Cigar Mile highlights a day of four graded stakes, including the Grade 3, $250,000 Go For Wand for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up, the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle for sophomore fillies and the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen for 2-year-olds; a race that Ajaaweed is working towards.

On Saturday, True Timber registered five furlongs in 1:01.55 on the Belmont Park training track, marking his third breeze on the surface since running third, 4 ¼ lengths back to winner and potential Cigar Mile rival Maximum Security [who worked three furlongs on the Belmont Park training track Sunday in 42.20] in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Bold Ruler on October 26 at Belmont.

McLaughlin has carefully chosen the spots for the 5-year-old son of Mineshaft’s campaign, which started with a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup in January at Gulfstream Park and continued with a ninth-place finish in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile in March in Dubai. After a six-month freshening, True Timber returned to run third in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap on September 21 at Belmont at a mile, earning the first of identical 98 Beyer Speed Figures in his last two starts.

“He’s been training great. He came out of the Bold Ruler in great shape and we’re pointing for it,” McLaughlin said.

True Timber ran second, by three-quarters of a length, to Patternrecognition in last year’s Cigar Mile. That marked the last of three times the Kentucky bred was a runner-up in a graded stakes, which also includes last year’s Grade 3 Bold Ruler and the 2017 Grade 3 Withers. He earned a personal-best 104 Beyer in the 2018 Cigar Mile after going six-wide in the upper stretch.

“He’s doing well. It’s a tough race, but he ran great in it last year,” McLaughlin said. “We’re hoping to repeat that.”

True Timber’s workmate on Saturday, Ajaaweed, will be making just his fourth career start in the Remsen, a fellow prestigious race on the NYRA circuit that serves as the state’s last Kentucky Derby prep race of the calendar year. Offering 10-4-2-1 points to the top-four finishers, the Remsen is contested at 1 1/8 miles.

Ajaaweed breezed five furlongs in 1:01.54. After running fifth in his debut at six furlongs on August 10 at Saratoga, he broke his maiden with a 4 ¼-length score at one mile on September 11 at Belmont. McLaughlin then stepped up the Kentucky homebred to stakes company, where she rallied from ninth three-quarters of a mile in to finish fourth in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity on October 5 at Keeneland.

McLaughlin said getting to stay closer to his home base at Belmont could be beneficial compared to that start.

“He’s doing very well. He shipped to Kentucky last time but didn’t ship really well and wasn’t quite himself for a couple of days,” McLaughlin said. “He came back here and has been training very, very well, and he’s ready. We think he wants a mile and an eighth, so all is well.”

Chester and Mary Broman’s Pauseforthecause could potentially go in the $100,000 Garland of Roses for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going six furlongs on Sunday, December 8 at the Big A, though McLaughlin said he isn’t sure yet if that’s the route he’ll go.

The 4-year-old daughter of Giant’s Causeway is coming off back-to-back wins, including a 3 ¼-length win in the Iroquois on October 19 at Belmont last out in which she garnered a personal-best 91 Beyer.

“She’s doing very well; we’re just looking at that race or maybe against New York-breds in early January,” McLaughlin said.

Bal Harbour ‘all systems go’ for G1 Cigar Mile; Pletcher readies pair for G2 Remsen

Red Oak Stable’s multiple graded-stakes placed homebred Bal Harbour visited the Belmont Park training track on Saturday to breeze four furlongs in 50.25 seconds in his final preparation for a start in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the 4-year-old son of First Samurai is winless in six starts this year, all against graded stakes company, but has finished no worse than third in his last four races including a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Woodward presented by NYRA Bets this summer at Saratoga Race Course. Last out, he finished third over an off track at Keeneland in the Grade 2 Fayette won by Tom’s d’Etat.

Likely to face another deep field in the Cigar Mile, Pletcher, who has previously won the Cigar Mile four times and most recently with Stay Thirsty in 2012, said he is happy with the way Bal Harbour continues to train heading into the race.

“He’s continuing to train sharply,” said Pletcher. “Everything looks good. He seems to have maintained his form throughout the year. It’s a tough race as you would expect for the Cigar Mile but we’re happy with the way he’s coming into it. Tyler [Gaffalione] thought he might have spun his wheels over the sloppy track in the Fayette but he didn’t disgrace himself and [winner] Tom’s d’Etat came back and won the [Grade 1] Clark so he’s been holding good company all year.”

In the $250,000 Go For Wand, Pletcher is expected to enter Another Broad for owners Madaket Stables, Elayne Stables, and Brian Martin. The 4-year-old Maryland-bred daughter of Include has one win from seven starts this year and last out finished second in the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm on November 2 at Aqueduct. She breezed four furlongs in 50.59 seconds at the Belmont training track this morning and Pletcher said he is pleased with her heading into the one-mile event.

“I think she’s probably at her very best going a mile and an eighth but this is the best option we have and she’s training well so we’ll take our shot with her in here,” said Pletcher.

Lastly, Pletcher reported Alpha Sixty Six and Chase Tracker, who are main-track only entrants for Friday’s re-scheduled Central Park, would each look to make their next starts in the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen on Saturday, with 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points up for grabs between the top four finishers.

A son of Liam’s Map for owner Paul Pompa, Jr. Alpha Sixty Six broke his maiden on September 7 at Belmont Park and will be making his third career start following a fifth-place running in the Grade 1 Champagne on October 5 at Belmont.

Chase Tracker, a Verrazano colt for St. Elias Stable, won his debut on September 21 at Parx Racing and will be making his third career start and second at Aqueduct in the Remsen following a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Nashua on November 3.

Fully Vested adds to Albertrani’s successful meet

With an outstanding 7 ¼-length romp in Saturday’s $150,000 Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship, which garnered a career-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure, Fully Vested gave trainer Tom Albertrani a third stakes winner of the fall meet, putting the 61-year-old conditioner on even terms with Mark Casse for most stakes wins at the current Big A stand.

The 5-year-old Discreet Cat gelding arrived at the Aqueduct Turf Sprint from a good third in the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational, which was won by stablemate and fellow Godolphin color bearer Final Frontier.

Albertrani said that Fully Vested would ship to Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida for the winter, where future plans will be evaluated.

“We were pretty confident going in just knowing what he ran against last time at Belmont,” Albertrani said Sunday morning. “We felt pretty good about our chances but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw him win as impressive as he did. He looked fine this morning, well probably regroup with him and ship him down to Florida and take things from there.”

Albertrani did not rule out a possible international endeavor in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan Racecourse on March 28.

“It was something brought up in conversation, whether or not we go that route, it’s too soon to make those plans but it’s hard to really make those plans but it’s nice to talk about it,” said Albertrani. “The race was a bit of a class relief from the last race but he did show a pretty good turn of foot yesterday where he did step up a bit from his last race. Time will tell.”

Albertrani could build on a successful Fall Meet with Dyna Passer and Panther Hit, who are scheduled for the $100,000 Winter Memories, slated for December 7.

“It’s been a good week. Weather permitting, we’ll have Dyna Passer in the Winter Memories,” Albertrani said.

Performer exits G3 Discovery win in good order; ships to Florida next week

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said Performer exited his triumphant stakes debut in the Grade 3 Discovery at Aqueduct in excellent shape and will join the conditioner’s base at Payson Park in Indiantown, Florida next week.

Owned by breeder Phipps Stable in partnership with Claiborne Farm, the sophomore son of Speightstown, out of graded-stakes placed Protesting, was making his two-turn debut in the Discovery and arrived at the 1 1/8-mile event off of a second-level allowance triumph at Belmont Park over Grumps Little Tots, who was third in the Discovery.

At the top of the stretch, he confronted two-time graded stakes winner Tax, but the appropriately named Performer, with Joel Rosario up, successfully shook away from his opponent and dug in to win by 1 ¼ lengths, garnering a 102 Beyer Speed Figure.

“We’re very pleased with the way he ran. I thought Joel would save some horse and he did just that,” said McGaughey, who notched his first Discovery win since Gold Fever won in 1996. “He was progressing the whole way through the summer and fall. He’ll ship to Florida next week and hopefully we’ll have a good spring, summer and fall 4-year-old campaign for him.”

Boasting some of the Phipps Stables’ prestigious legacy, Performer is a direct descendant of undefeated champion Personal Ensign as well as multiple Grade 1 winner My Flag – the dam of 2002 Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Storm Flag Flying.

Also set to ship to South Florida in the winter for McGaughey is dual Grade 1 winner Code of Honor, who is currently enjoying a brief freshening in Kentucky. Owned by W.S Farish, the son of Noble Mission won the Runhappy Travers before being elevated to first in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. He was recently sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

McGaughey said Code of Honor will be pointed toward a likely return in the spring.

“He’s turned out in Kentucky and I’ll pick him up the first of January,” McGaughey said. “It was a planned turnout, nothing was wrong. I had planned on turning him out after the Breeders’ Cup, he had been going a pretty good while. We gave him a pretty good break and he’ll come back in the spring, too.”

Code of Honor, a homebred Noble Mission chestnut, was McGaughey’s fourth Travers winner joining Easy Goer (1989), Rhythm (1990) and Coronado’s Quest (1998). He also was a fourth Jockey Club Gold Cup winner for McGaughey after he saddled Vanlandingham (1985), Easy Goer (1989) and Miner’s Mark (1993).

G3 Go for Wand or Garland of Roses next up for Saguaro Row

Trainer Michael Stidham is undecided where last-out stakes winner Saguaro Row will make her next start, but it will more than likely take place at Aqueduct.

Owned by Mark Breen and Newtown Anner Stud, the winner of the Pumpkin Pie at the Big A on November 9 will race back in either the Grade 3, $250,000 Go For Wand on December 7 or the $100,000 Garland of Roses the following day.

“We’re looking at both of those races,” Stidham said. “She’s a big, strong filly that always trains well. She came out of the last race in good shape. We’re hoping she’s one that really takes to the track at Aqueduct.”

Bred in Kentucky by co-owner Mark Breen, the daughter of Union Rags was twice stakes placed before scoring her first stakes victory in her last start by 4 ¼ lengths.

Stidham had quite a bit to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend. In addition to scoring his 2,000th career win with Lem Me Tel Ya at Tampa Bay Downs on Wednesday, he sent Godolphin’s Alms, winner of the Grade 3 Matron over the inner turf at Belmont Park, to Del Mar where she was a clear winner under a hand ride in the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante.

In addition, Stidham, who won last year’s Jimmy Durante with fellow Godolphin royal blue color bearer Elsa, pulled a hat trick on Fair Grounds’ Saturday program.

“We’re looking at hopefully having some big things with her next year,” Stidham said of Alms.

Independence Hall points to Jerome

Following an impressive win in the Grade 3 Nashua at Aqueduct, trainer Michael Trombetta will send Independence Hall back to the Big A where he will look to acquire qualifying points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby in the $150,000 Jerome, which offers 10-4-2-1 qualifying points, on New Year’s Day.

Owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Twin Creeks Racing Stables, Kathleen Verratti and Robert N. Verratti, the 2-year-old son of graded stakes-winning freshman sire Constitution was an eye-opening 12 1/4-length winner of the Nashua, which like the Jerome, is also run at the one-mile distance.

Trombetta decided to bypass Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen and give Independence Hall some more time in between his starts.

“It falls well on the calendar. Off of such a big win, the Remsen was a little close and the Jerome allows us to run over a track and a distance that he’s familiar with,” Trombetta said.

Bred in Kentucky by Woodford Thoroughbreds, Independence Hall is out of the Cape Town broodmare Kalahari Cat who also produced graded stakes winner Back Onyx.

Shotski pointed to G2 Remsen

Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable, Pantofel Stable and Blue River Investment Partners’ Shotski, trained by Jeremiah O’Dwyer, scratched out of Saturday’s Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs and will instead point to the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen set for Saturday at the Big A.

“The race yesterday came up tough and with the track going to be as awful as it was because of the forecasted weather, it made sense for us to skip that and take a shot at the Remsen a week later,” said O’Dwyer.

Silver Prospector posted a mild upset in a sloppy renewal of the Kentucky Jockey Club that saw Grade 1 Champagne-winner Tiz the Law finish third.

Shotski, a bay son of Blame, graduated at second asking when sprinting six furlongs on the Laurel Park main track on October 3 and followed up with a good fourth in the Street Sense at one mile on October 27 at Churchill Downs.

O’Dwyer said Shotski, who breezed five furlongs in 1:02.20 on Saturday at Laurel under Sheldon Russell, is training well into the nine-furlong Remsen, which offers 10-4-2-1 qualifying points towards the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby May 2 at Churchill Downs.

“He breezed good on the weekend and seems to have come out of it in good shape this morning,” said O’Dwyer over the phone from Laurel. “As long as the next few days are good, we plan on coming up there.”

A modest $25,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale, Shotski’s second dam, the stakes-winning Fortune Pending, produced Grade 3-winner Palmeiro and the multiple stakes-winner Slews Final Answer.

Shotski was set enter the April OBS, but O’Dwyer arranged to purchase the colt privately for Blue Devil Investment Partners. The current ownership group bought in following Shotski’s impressive maiden score.

“I bought him privately off the farm and I’m very happy with him. I saw down in Florida for the March sale in Ocala and I saw him training on the farm and I made an offer before he went into the April sale,” said O’Dwyer. “We were able to bring him along and train him the way we wanted. After he broke his maiden here, we got some offers for him and I’m glad that Mr. Barber, Mr. Wachtel and the other partners left him in training with me.”

O’Dwyer, a native of Ireland, galloped horses for trainer Al Stall, Jr. for a period in 2010, the year Shotski’s sire Blame captured the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic for Stall.

“He had a presence about him and I just loved the horse from day one. He’s a nice, solid horse and looks a lot like Blame,” said O’Dwyer. “I never got to sit on Blame but I used to ride his work partner and I’d see him in the barn and he had a nice demeanor and presence about him. This horse has a lot of those qualities as well. I’m not saying he’s as good as Blame, but he’s improving with every run and is lightly raced and I’m hoping he’ll give a good account of himself and get bigger and stronger as a 3-year-old.”

Last out, Shotski finished 2 1/4-lengths back of South Bend in the Street Sense and O’Dwyer said the added furlong in the Remsen should help.

“I was pleased with that effort. He’s a laid back horse and if you watch the replay, he was off the bridle a long way out but he was still going,” said O’Dwyer. “A lot of that is down to greenness and being a baby, but I think he’ll travel a lot better in the Remsen. He seems to have taken a step forward mentally. He travels better when in behind horses with horses carrying him along. He’s grown up a lot and I think you’ll see a different horse this time.”

Shotski will ship in to Aqueduct the day before the Remsen.

Cigar Mile Day on December 7 will feature Empire 6 mandatory payout

There will be a mandatory payout of the Empire on Saturday, December 7 – Cigar Mile Day – at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The jackpot carryover heading into Sunday’s card stood at $520,913.

The card on December 7 will feature four graded stakes, highlighted by the 31st running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile and also includes the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen, the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle and the Grade 3, $250,000 Go For Wand.

Featuring a $0.20 minimum wager and 20 percent takeout, the Empire 6 requires the bettor to select the first-place finisher of the final six races of the card. On non-mandatory payout days, if one unique ticket exists, then 100% of the net pool, plus the jackpot carryover if applicable, will be paid to the winner.

If there is no unique wager selecting the first-place finisher in all six races, then 75% of the day’s net pool will be distributed to those who selected the first-place finisher in the greatest number of races. The remainder will be added into the jackpot and carried to the next day’s Empire 6.

Cigar Mile Racing Festival stakes probables

Saturday, December 7
Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile
Probable: Bal Harbour (Todd Pletcher), Forewarned (Uriah St. Lewis), Looking At Bikinis (Chad Brown), Maximum Security (Jason Servis) Network Effect (Chad Brown), Pat On the Back (Jeremiah Englehart), Spun to Run (Carlos Guerrero), Tale of Silence (Barclay Tagg), True Timber (Kiaran McLaughlin), Whitmore (Ron Moquett)

Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen
Probable: Ajaaweed (McLaughlin), Alpha Sixty Six (Pletcher), Amends (Shug McGaughey), Celtic Striker (Ray Handal), Chase Tracker (Pletcher), Country Grammer (Brown), Forza Di Oro (Bill Mott), Informative (St. Lewis), Prince James (Kelsey Danner), Shotski (Jeremiah O’Dwyer), Super John (John Servis)

Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle
Probable: Alandra (McGaughey), Daphne Moon (Englehart), Glass Ceiling (Danny Gargan), I Dare U (George Weaver), Lake Avenue (Mott), Maedean (Mark Hennig), Miss Marissa (James Ryerson), Water White (Rudy Rodriguez)
Possible: Blame Debbie (Graham Motion), Fiftyshays Ofgreen (Jo. Servis), Indawin (Todd Pletcher), Jara (Jo. Servis)

Grade 3, $250,000 Go For Wand
Probable: Another Broad (Pletcher), Espresso Shot (Jorge Abreu), Our Super Nova (Charlton Baker), Saguaro Row (Michael Stidham)
Possible: Spiced Perfection (Peter Miller)

$100,000 Garland of Roses
Probable: Angel At War (Michael Gorham), Holiday Disguise (Linda Rice), Our Circle of Love (Michelle Nevin), Pauseforthecause (McLaughlin)
Possible: Sea Sparkle (Chandradat Goberdhan), Wildcat Combat (Miguel Penaloza)