by Karen Johnson
Shadwell Stable’s Daaher upset Midnight Lute, the TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner, by 2 ½ lengths in the $294,000 Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I) (VIDEO) at Aqueduct on Nov. 24. Midnight Lute, the 1-2 favorite in the five-horse field, finished second.
Daaher, who was ridden by Mike Luzzi, took the lead from Xchanger leaving the chute down the backstretch. Garrett Gomez, aboard Midnight Lute, had a lot of horse going down the backstretch, but chose to take his mount back to fourth.
Bob Baffert, Midnight Lute’s trainer, acknowledged that probably wasn’t the best thing to do.
“If we learned anything, it is that we should let him do his own thing,” Baffert said. “We’re still learning about this horse.”
Midnight Lute, the 123-pound highweight, moved up to second and was at Daaher’s flank around the final turn. Daaher, however, had another gear that propelled him forward. The winner held a 2 ½-length advantage with a furlong remaining.
“He kicked for me and there was plenty left,” Luzzi said. “He can run--there’s no question about it.”
Gomez said he was reluctant to send Midnight Lute after Daaher too early.
“I was kind of in-between with him because if he makes the lead too easy, his ears go (up) and he pulls himself up,” Gomez said. “I tried to time it just right. When I got to the leader, I still had a lot of horse. (Daaher) just kept kicking and my horse flattened out at the eighth pole.”
Daaher, a 3-year-old Canadian-bred son of Awesome Again , clicked off fractions of :23.10, :46.32, and 1:09.82. The final time was a very solid 1:33.79 on a track labeled fast. The winner carried nine fewer pounds than Midnight Lute.
Naughty New Yorker finished third, 4 ¼ lengths behind Midnight Lute. Xchanger and Sir Greeley completed the order of finish.
Daaher, who paid $6.70 to win as the second choice, is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. The trainer said he hopes to take Daaher to Dubai in 2008 for either the group I Godolphin Mile or Dubai World Cup.
The win in the Cigar Mile was Daaher’s third consecutive victory since being equipped with blinkers. The colt won an allowance race and the Jerome Handicap (gr. II) before scoring his first grade I win in the Cigar Mile.
Daaher has a record of 4-0-1 from seven starts and earnings of $447,039.