Multiple grade II winner Twilight Eclipse will stretch out to two miles Friday, June 6 when the 5-year-old Purim gelding faces an expected 11 rivals in the inaugural $200,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park.
Two of the three career grade II victories for Twilight Eclipse have come in 1 1/2-mile turf tests, including his four-length score in last year's Pan American Stakes where he set a Gulfstream Park course record by completing the race in 2:22.63. West Point Thoroughbreds' Twilight Eclipse also has twice placed in 1 1/2-mile grade I turf races, including a runner-up finish in last year's Man o' War Stakes at Belmont.
Twilight Eclipse will be making his first start since an off-the-board finish in the Dubai Sheema Classic Presented by Longines (UAE-I) March 29 at Meydan. He opened his 5-year-old season with a victory in the Mac Diarmida Stakes (gr. IIT) at 1 3/8 miles on the Gulfstream turf.
"This horse prefers going longer. The longer, the better for him," said trainer Tom Albertrani. "Most of his races are at a mile and a half. It seems like it's his best distance, a mile and three eighths, or, a mile and a half, even better."
Albertrani said the Belmont Gold Cup could serve as a springboard to Belmont's Bowling Green (gr. II) at 1 1/2 miles on July 12.
"We're looking at, maybe, the Bowling Green later on," said Albertrani. "We didn't know if he'd be ready this quickly after his trip to Dubai. He has done very well since his return from Dubai and we're using this as a prep race for the Bowling Green. We don't think two miles should be a problem for him; it looks like he wants to run all day. I've worked him only a few times since we've been back, but it seems like he has plenty of energy. This race will bring him a step forward, I think."
One of the 11 other older horses expected for Friday's marathon is Riverdee Stable's Eagle Poise, who set a track record when he completed 1 3/4 miles in 2:57.62 on the Polytrack at Woodbine to win the 2011 Valedictory Stakes (Can-III). The 8-year-old gelded son of 2003 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Empire Maker also has placed in two other editions of the Valedictory, closing out last season with a runner-up finish in that race.
Another horse of interest in the field is James Carter's Spy in the Sky, who has won some of the country's top steeplechase events but will return to the flat for the Belmont Gold Cup. With that steeplechase experience, the race's distance does not figure to be a problem for the 10-year-old son of 1995 Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch .
$200,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational Stakes (race 10, approximate post time 6:10 p.m. EDT) 4YO&Up, Two Miles, Turf
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Wings of Fortune (KY), J. Vargas, 117, M. Montoya
2. Sky Blazer (KY), R. Maragh, 117, B. Tagg
3. Charming Kitten (KY), J. Velazquez, 119, T. Pletcher
4. Reflecting (KY), J. Rosario, 115, C. McGaughey III
5. Spy in the Sky (KY), J. Bravo, 115, J. Day
6. Irish Mission (ON), I. Ortiz Jr., 110, C. Clement
7. Auld Alliance (IRE), J Castellano, 112, H. Motion
8. Draw Two (KY), E. Prado, 117, H. Motion
9. Eagle Poise (KY), A. Solis, 115, H. Motion
10. Comes the Dream (KY), J. Alvarado, 115, G. Weaver
11. Twilight Eclipse (KY), J. Lezcano, 121, T. Albertrani
12. Mambo Man (KY), G. Stevens, 119, R. Diodoro