Cigar Mile Winner May Head For Taller Timber In Pegasus, Saudi Cup

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 Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park, N.Y.

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, Saudi Arabia.

“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 on October 16 going six furlongs against optional claimers at Keeneland.


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