HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Still going strong at the age of 7, West Point Thoroughbreds’ Grade 1 winner Twilight Eclipse is scheduled to kick off his fifth season of racing in Saturday’s $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
The 21st running of the 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida for 4-year-olds and up on the grass is one of three stakes on the 13-race program, joining the $500,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) for older horses on dirt and $150,000 The Very One (G3) for females 4 and up over the turf course.
A gelded bay son of Grade 1 winner Purim, Twilight Eclipse will be making his seasonal bow in the Mac Diarmida for the fourth straight year. Fourth in 2013, he was a one-length winner as the favorite in 2014 and finished second to multiple Eclipse Award champion Main Sequence in 2015.
Twilight Eclipse finished in the money six times in eight starts last year with one win – the Man o’ War (G1) at Belmont Park, also at 1 3/8 miles – and earnings of $528,200 to push his career bankroll over $1.8 million.
It was similar to 2014 where Twilight Eclipse ran second behind Main Sequence three times, all in Grade 1 races, winning the Mac Diarmida and posting five top-three finishes from seven starts for earnings of $702,000.
“The last two years he’s had a great season,” trainer Tom Albertrani said. “He’s been probably the most unlucky horse on the track. He always seems to run his race, but there’s always a race or two where he’s found himself in some trouble. Hopefully we can get a little better racing luck with him and if he keeps his form I think we’ll have another great season with him.”
Albertrani gave Twilight Eclipse his annual winter vacation after an eighth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) Oct. 31, and he shows a regular string of works since Jan. 8 at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County.
“Twilight is doing super. For 7 years old, he couldn’t be better,” Albertrani said. “You would never know it. Being around him, he looks better now than I think I’ve ever seen him. He’s just physically really filled out. The horse looks super.”
Albertrani said he continues to use the same training program for Twilight Eclipse, who began his career with a pair of wins 17 days apart at Indiana Grand Race Course in June 2012. He made his debut for Albertrani and West Point that August at Saratoga, finishing sixth in the Equalize Stakes, and ended the year with his first stakes victory, the W.L. McKnight Handicap (G2) at Gulfstream Park West.
“We’re doing exactly the same thing. The way he’s training right now, he’s as strong as I’ve ever seen him. I don’t know the reason why but maybe he’s just maturing later. I know when I first got him he was kind of an immature-looking type of horse. Maybe maturity is just kind of catching up with him a little bit late in his age,” Albertrani said. “I think he just has a great attitude, that’s probably basically it. He has a great attitude and he really must enjoy what he’s doing otherwise he wouldn’t act like this.”
Four of Twilight Eclipse’s five career graded-stakes wins have come in South Florida, the 2014 Mac Diarmida and 2013 Pan American – in which he set the world record for 1 ½ miles (2:22.63) – at Gulfstream Park, and the 2013 and 2014 McKnight at Gulfstream Park West.
He is one of two dozen graded-stakes winners trained by Albertrani, a list that includes 2006 3-year-old male champion Bernardini and Grade 1 winners Brilliant Speed, third in the 2010 Belmont Stakes (G1), Better Lucky, Zo Impressive, Gozzip Girl and Balleto.
“You’d have to put him toward the top of the shelf, really. This horse, he’s a Grade 1 winner. He’s been beaten inches in several other Grade 1 races. You have to really think of him as one of your horses that would be at the top of your list,” Albertrani said. “Hopefully if we have another good year with him it’s going to be exciting.”
Luis Saez will ride from Post 6 at 119 pounds, four less than co-highweights Da Big Hoss and Mr Maybe.
Wertheimer and Frere’s All Included will make his third start of the Championship Meet in the Mac Diarmida, having finished third in the 1 1/16-mile Fort Lauderdale (G2) Jan. 9 and the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) Feb. 6, where he was beaten a length going 1 1/8 miles.
The Mac Diarmida will be the longest trip to date for the 5-year-old son of Include who had narrow losses last year in the Knickerbocker (G3), Bernard Baruch (G2) and Poker (G3), never by more than 2 ¼ lengths.
“We’ve always kind of considered him the type that always keeps going, so I want to give him a try and see how he handles it,” meet-leading trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I think he’s shown that he’s got a steady clip to him. I thought he ran really well in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and just missed, finishing third. We’re just going to experiment a little bit and hope that we’re guessing right.”
Hall of Famer John Velazquez rides from outside Post 7 at 119 pounds.
Gary Barber, Quintessential Racing Florida and Horse’n Around Racing Stable’s millionaire gelding Kaigun enters the Mac Diarmida on an eight-race winless streak since taking the Seabiscuit (G2) in November 2014 at Del Mar. Trained by Mark Casse, he has finished second in each of his last three starts, all Grade 3 stakes, including the W.L. McKnight Dec. 26 at Gulfstream and the John B. Connally Jan. 30 at Sam Houston.
“He’s a versatile horse. He can do a little bit of anything,” Casse said. “We need to get lucky and win one of these.”
Kaigun will break from the rail under Joe Bravo at 119 pounds.
Also entered are John B. Connally winner Da Big Hoss, third in the McKnight; multiple graded stakes-placed Grand Tito, a Gulfstream allowance winner Feb. 13; Mr Maybe, a winner of three straight including the Red Smith Handicap (G3) Nov. 14 in his last start; and Grade 2-placed O’Prado Ole.
Source: Gulfstream Park