True Timber ‘peaking’ for latest Cigar Mile bid

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Aug 29, 2020; Louisville, Kentucky, USA; An exercise rider works out Kentucky Derby hopeful King Guillermo at Churchill Downs. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

True Timber will be running in the Cigar Mile for the third time this weekend and latest trainer Jack Sisterson believes he’s in a good place.

True Timber has twice before contested the Aqueduct Grade 1 for previous handler Kiaran McLaughlin.

He finished second in 2018 as Patternrecognition took the prize, while 12 months ago he could only he manage third place behind Maximum Security and Spun To Run.

He’s set to join new stablemate Bon Raison in the field this time around. True Timber was last spotted in second spot over 7f at Keeneland in the Layfette last month behind Sleepy Eyes Todd, his fourth start of 2020. He had previously finished fourth in the Grade 2 Vosburgh at Belmont, a race which connections took lessons from.

He remains winless since September 2018 but Sisterson believes he could snare a top-level victory. Both his runners are shaping up well, he feels.

“They’ve shown us in the mornings that they both can run a competitive race,” Sisterson said.

“[True Timber] been close to winning a race like this and is peaking at the right time.

“He got stuck down at the rail running three-quarters at Belmont [in the Vosburgh]. He just wasn’t happy. He’s a horse who likes his own way, and we learned that in the mornings. We let him put his feet where he wanted to and put him in a happy frame of mind and he moved forward extremely well.”

Shug McGaughey’s Performer meanwhile goes in pursuit of his sixth victory in a row when he steps into Grade 1 company for the first time in the Cigar Mile.

King Guillermo and Firenze Fire would appear to be amongst the main threats, with Performer forecast to start favourite in the nine-runner Cigar Mile.

“He’s training well. It has been a while since he ran, but he’ll be fit enough,” McGaughey said. “He’s been over that track before. He seems to be doing as well now as he’s ever done.”

King Guillermo won the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby this year before finishing second best in the Arkansas Derby (G1). Like Performer, he’s been off the track a while and will be having his first start since May.

Trainer Juan Carlos Avila doesn’t see the absence as a point of worry heading into a competitive Cigar Mile.

“He’s good. He’s ready,” Avila said. “He’s getting ready to face that challenge. The mile will be good for him because he’s had seven months without a race.

“I really like the opportunity and the chance to win, and this gives us a chance for people to know me and know King Guillermo,” Avila continued. “We have big expectations.”