11/24/2007 1:00AM

Daaher upsets Midnight Lute in Cigar

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Daaher, a late-blooming 3-year-old trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, rolls to a 2 1/2-length Cigar win.
OZONE PARK, N.Y. - For the second straight year, a late-developing 3-year-old gave an electric performance in the Cigar Mile to give racing fans something to look forward to next year.

Using his brilliant speed, Daaher took over from Xchanger soon after the start and ran away from heavily favored Midnight Lute in the stretch to capture the Grade 1, $350,000 Cigar Mile by 2 1/2 lengths before a crowd of 4,712 at Aqueduct. Midnight Lute, the 1-2 favorite, finished second by 4 1/4 lengths over Naughty New Yorker. Xchanger and Sir Greeley completed the order of finish.

It was the third straight victory for Daaher, all since trainer Kiaran McLaughlin added blinkers to his equipment. He previously won a first-level allowance race at Saratoga and the Grade 2 Jerome Handicap at Belmont.

Last year, Discreet Cat won an allowance race, the Jerome, and the Cigar Mile to end his 3-year-old season.

Saturday, Daaher was facing the toughest challenge of his career - the Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Midnight Lute. Under Mike Luzzi, Daaher was second early on to Xchanger, but forged to the front after running a quarter in 23.10 seconds. Daaher ran a half-mile in 46.32 and six furlongs in 1:09.82.

Midnight Lute was pulling Garrett Gomez early on in the race, but Gomez did not want him to move too soon and kept him back. That, according to trainer Bob Baffert, may have been a mistake.

"He would have been better off . . . to let him go," Baffert said. "We're still learning about the horse. Next time let him do his thing - let him go."

Daaher certainly did his thing. When Midnight Lute made a run at him turning for home, Daaher, a son of Awesome Again owned by Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum's Shadwell Stable, spurted away from him and went on to cover the mile in 1:33.79, a solid time considering the way the track was playing. Daaher, who carried 114 pounds - nine less than Midnight Lute - returned $6.70 as the second choice.

"I still had horse turning for home," Luzzi said. "He kicks when you ask him. Even though he runs fast, there's plenty left."

Last year, Discreet Cat went to Dubai and finished last in the World Cup. McLaughlin, who won the World Cup with Invasor, said he would like to point Daaher to the World Cup or the Godolphin Mile. Both races are on March 29. McLaughlin said Daaher would most likely prep for World Cup Night in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 2.