Lightly-raced Twilight Eclipse put away 3-2 favorite Ioya Bigtime entering the far turn and continued on to post an 11-1 upset win in the W. L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT) Nov. 24 at Calder Casino & Race Course (VIDEO).
Ridden by Manoel Cruz for owner West Point Thoroughbreds and trainer Tom Albertrani, the 3-year-old son of Purim followed leader Ioya Bigtime through the first half-mile in slow fractions of :25.23 and :48.94. With second choice Forte Dei Marmi assuming second, Twilight Eclipse dropped back to be third after a mile was completed in 1:37.73. At the eighth pole, the 3-year-old gelding had rallied to catch Ioya Bigtime and Jeffrey Sanchez, with his momentum carrying him to a 1 3/4-length triumph.
Final time for 1 1/2 miles over firm turf was 2:26.71, well off the course record of 2:24.11 set by Flag Down in 1995.
Mucho Mas Macho, the longest priced starter in the eight-horse field at 39-1, was taken off the hedge by jockey Juan Leyva for a late run in the stretch, but the effort came up short.
Twilight Eclipse paid $24.80, $12.40, and $4.60. Mucho Mas Macho was worth $28.60 and $9.40, with Vertiformer third, returning $6.80. They were followed by Ioya Bigtime, Prince Will I Am, Manchurian High, Center Divider, and Forte Dei Marmi.
"We had such good position through the whole race and I just waited," Cruz said. "And when I wanted to go, he just took off for me and he finished so, so strong."
With three wins from six starts, Twilight Eclipse has earned $147,111. Produced from the Twilight Agenda mare My Twilight Dancer, Twilight Eclipse was consigned by Select Sales, agent, to the 2010 Keeneland January mixed sale where he was reported purchased by John L. Langemeier for $1,000.
Bred in Kentucky by Epona Thoroughbreds, Twilight Eclipse was a late developer, making his first career start on grass at Indiana Downs in June of this year. Victorious in his debut, the bay gelding won an allowance on grass at Indiana Downs before taking a quantum leap in class and company. Shipped to Saratoga Race Course, Twilight Eclipse finished sixth, only 1 1/2 lengths behind winner Miami Cat in the listed Equalize Stakes at a mile on grass.
Sent to Delaware Park for the Kent Stakes (gr. IIIT), Twilight Eclipse was well back before making a late gain while wide to finish fifth, 6 3/4 lengths off winner Optimizer . Previous to the W.L. McKnight, he was much closer to the pace in the Temperence Hill Stakes at Belmont Park and came up short, a length behind Our Entourage, to finish third.