Calumet Farm’s True Timber earned blacktype in the Grade 1, $250,000 Cigar Mile in each of the last two years. After a runner-up effort in 2018 and a third-place finish in 2019, the son of Mineshaft finally broke through on Saturday, taking command out of the turn and powering home a 5 1/2-length winner to capture the 32nd edition at Aqueduct Racetrack.
A storm-drenched day made for a sloppy and sealed main track, but the conditions did not faze True Timber, who broke sharp from post 5 under Aqueduct fall meet-leading rider Kendrick Carmouche and tracked in third position as New York-bred Mr. Buff led the six-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 22.89 seconds and the half in 45.82.
Heading into the stretch, Carmouche set True Timber down, easily holding off late bids from runner-up and 13-1 longshot Snapper Sinclair and 4-5 favorite Performer to hit the wire in 1:36.49.
“I had perfect position leaving the gate and all the way around there,” Carmouche said. “Right before we got to the quarter pole, I pulled the trigger and I knew they were going to have to run me down from here.”
The win was a history-making one for Carmouche, who secured his first Grade 1 victory in a career that started in 2000. The Vinton, Louisiana native had tallied six previous Grade 2 wins and will enter Sunday’s Closing Day looking for another milestone, as he holds a four-win lead over Jose Lezcano [21-17] in a bid for his first career riding title at a New York Racing Association meet.
“It’s my first Grade 1. I owe it all to my fans, my wife and kids and how much they stuck with me and kept me pushing and fighting in this game,” said an emotional Carmouche. “This means so much to me. This is the biggest win of my career and I hope I have many more blessed ones.
“It means a lot going into the winter meet,” he continued. “New York has really good racing and really good purses. Things are getting started back up in the country and the sky is the limit. We just have to keep on fighting.”
Carmouche needed six months to recover from a broken right leg suffered in a spill at Kentucky Downs in September 2018. He has won six graded stakes since returning and three this year, with True Timber joining Mischevious Alex in the Grade 3 Gotham and Fire At Will in the Grade 2 Pilgrim.
“I got hurt and things got set back a little bit, but with the type of person that I am – working hard and having a lot of heart and fight – it got me back to where I am today,” Carmouche said.
Winning trainer Jack Sisterson had reason to be confident in True Timber’s ability to handle an off track, following his third-place finish in the Grade 1 Forego in August at Saratoga Race Course, garnering a season-high 98 Beyer Speed Figure.
“I got to give credit to True Timber, the farm, the incredible staff I have, and of course Kendrick,” said Sisterson, who took over True Timber’s training duties in the summer when Kiaran McLaughlin retired to become a jockey agent. “I had all the confidence in the world when Kendrick texted me, ‘I got you brother, don’t worry’, with a little peace sign.”
Returning to another sloppy track, True Timber won for the first time in 14 starts dating to September 2018 at Belmont Park. The now 6-year-old had finished second or third eight times in that stretch, including three consecutive third-place efforts to cap 2019 in the Grade 2 Kelso, Grade 3 Bold Ruler and Cigar Mile.
“As soon as I got the horse, the Cigar Mile was a year-end goal,” Sisterson said. “A lot of emphasis has to be put on how good a trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is. He had this horse before I did and sent him to me in such good shape. This shows how good of a trainer he really is.”
Sisterson won his second career Grade 1 after he won the Personal Ensign with Vexatious in August at Saratoga.
Off at 7-1, True Timber returned $16.60 on a $2 win wager. He improved his career earnings to $1.21 million.
“We’ll make sure he comes out of it in good shape and talk to the farm about what the future might be,” Sisterson said. “Physically, he’s beautiful to look at, and he’s in great shape.”
Snapper Sinclair, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen and ridden by Manny Franco, edged Performer by a neck for second.
“I was happy with the position that I got,” Franco said. “The pace in front of me was quick and I just tried to give my horse a breather. When I made my move, he really responded for me. I knew the horse in front had a lot and would be hard to catch, but my horse ran a great race.”
Performer, ridden by Joel Rosario from the inside post, saw his five-race winning streak snapped but kept intact his pristine record of on-the-board efforts, moving to 5-0-2 in seven starts.
“He broke just OK and I was a little further back than I wanted,” Rosario said. “It took him a little time to handle the track. Sometimes when the track is wet it’s hard to come from where he was. He made his run from the outside and seemed to be comfortable there. But it was tough to catch up with the leader.”
King Guillermo, Mr. Buff and Bon Raison completed the order of finish. Firenze Fire, Mind Control and Majestic Dunhill scratched.
Live racing resumes Sunday at Aqueduct with Closing Day of the 18-day fall meet, offering three stakes on the nine-race card, including a pair of $250,000 New York Stallion Stakes Series races with the Great White Way and Fifth Avenue and the $100,000 Garland of Roses. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.
NYRA Press, Brian Bohl
NYRA Photo, Susie Raisher