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.
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.”
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.”
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