Key Takeaways from Cigar Mile Weekend

Tom Pedulla presents takeaways from Cigar Mile Handicap day at Aqueduct on Nov. 5 and another other key development this weekend.

WHAT A BUY!: What caliber of horse can be purchased for $5,000? Well, Mark Schwartz looks to have a Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve contender after New York-bred Brooklyn Strong outslugged Ten for Ten by a neck to win the $150,000 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct. Brooklyn Strong was obtained as a 2-year-old in training at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. spring sale. He provided trainer Daniel Velazquez with his first graded-stakes win in the United States. Velazquez eagerly awaits the opportunity to add to the 10 Derby qualifying points Brooklyn Strong earned in the Grade 2 Remsen. “We’ll come back healthy and then start picking our spots,” he said. “This is a big prep for the Derby moving forward. Now, we’re definitely Derby dreaming.”

UNDEFEATED MALATHAAT: Malathaat stayed perfect through three starts for Shadwell Stable and earned 10 qualifying points on the Road to the Longines Kentucky Oaks when she rallied from well back to win the $150,000 Demoiselle Stakes by three-quarters of a length at Aqueduct. Malathaat, a $1.05 million yearling, had won her first two starts with relative ease. This time, she was forced to run inside and absorb a great deal of muddy kickback in what should be a valuable learning experience. “She wasn’t comfortable inside. I think she was unsure of her footing early on,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “In her first two starts, she had easy trips without much dirt in her face. I was worried at multiple points of the race.” In the end, though, Malathaat’s class showed.

DROUGHT ENDS: Calumet Farm’s True Timber snapped a 13-race losing streak when he relished the slop at Aqueduct and splashed home a 5 ½-length winner in the $250,000 Cigar Mile Handicap. The 6-year-old son of Mineshaft had finished second or third eight times during the drought. Jack Sisterson, who took over training duties during the summer after Kiaran McLaughlin closed his operation to become an agent for jockey Luis Saez, had set the Cigar Mile as a late-season target. “I got to give credit to True Timber, the farm, the incredible staff I have and, of course, [jockey] Kendrick [Carmouche],” said Sisterson. According to Sisterson, the next target will be either the Jan. 23 Pegasus World Cup or the Feb. 20 Saudi Cup.

DROUGHT ENDS II: No one could blame Kendrick Carmouche, 36, for becoming emotional after he gained his first Grade 1 triumph in the Cigar Mile. He had earned six previous Grade 2 victories since he began his riding career in 2000, but a victory at the top tier had been maddeningly elusive. Carmouche, one of a relatively few African-American jockeys, made it all the way back from a riding accident in September 2018 that essentially shattered his right leg and sidelined him for six months. “This means so much to me,” he said. “This is the biggest win of my career, and I hope I have many more.”

PEGASUS-BOUND: Trainer Jose D’Angelo is setting his sights on the Jan. 23 Pegasus World Cup after Jesus’ Team prepped for that $3 million race by winning the $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel Stakes by three-quarters of a length. D’Angelo noted that he had given the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile runner-up only one workout for Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile race at Gulfstream, so it was not surprising that his 3-year-old son of Tapiture struggled to overtake runaway pacesetter Storm Runner. “I chose only one work to keep him healthy and happy,” D’Angelo said. “I had confidence in him.” He plans to give Jesus’ Team a week in a round pen at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., before the former claimer turned Grade 1 competitor begins preparations for the Pegasus.