Twilight Eclipse, a three-year-old Purim gelding making only his sixth career start, registered an 11-1 upset of Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder. His stalk-and-pounce rally under Manoel Cruz resulted in a 1 3/4-length triumph in a time of 2:26 3/5 for 1 1/2 miles on the firm turf.
Ioya Bigtime, the 3-2 favorite, led comfortably through splits of :25 1/5, :48 4/5, 1:13, 1:37 3/5 and 2:02 3/5. Twilight Eclipse, who rated in second passing the stands the first time and third in the second run down the backside, was poised to make a bid when only 1 1/2 lengths behind that rival approaching the quarter pole. Although Ioya Bigtime initially appeared to have run left, Twilight Eclipse easily swooped past in the stretch and drew off to a convincing win for owner West Point Thoroughbreds. Twilight Eclipse paid $24.80, $12.40 and $4.60.Outsiders filled out the trifecta as Mucho Mas Macho, the 39-1 longest shot on the board, made a bold rally late to finish second, three parts of a length ahead of 11-1 chance Vertiformer. Ioya Bigtime retreated to fourth and was followed by 2010 McKnight winner Prince Will I Am, Manchurian High and Center Divider. Forte Dei Marmi, the 8-5 second choice, trailed the field after making an early move around the third and final turn.
Scratched from the McKnight were Decaf Again and Ducduc, who ran later in the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper Handicap.
Winner of his first two starts in the span of 17 days at Indiana Downs this past June, Twilight Eclipse was transferred from the barn of John Langemeier to Tom Albertrani's after being privately purchased by West Point prior to the August 30 Equalize at Saratoga. A late-closing sixth in that affair, he was a modest fifth in the Grade 3 Kent in his next start. He preceded this victory with a third in the October 21 Temperence Hill at Belmont in his dirt debut. His record now stands at 6-3-0-1, $147,111.
Bred in Kentucky by Epona Thoroughbreds, Twilight Eclipse sold for a mere $1,000 as a newly-turned yearling at the Keeneland January sale. Produced by the Twilight Agenda mare My Twilight Dancer, he hails from the family of Grade 2 winner Slavic and multiple Grade 3 winner Mythical Power.
Twilight Eclipse's third dam was multiple stakes winner Alanesian, the ancestress of champion Revidere; Princessnesian, filly winner of the 1968 Hollywood Gold Cup; multiple Grade 1 winner and sire Harlan's Holiday; and multiple Irish highweight Burden of Proof, among other notables.