Twilight Eclipse seeks his third win in the W. L. McKnight Handicap (G3T).

Twilight Eclipse seeks his third win in the W. L. McKnight Handicap (G3T).

Chad B. Harmon

Twilight Eclipse Seeks Third McKnight Triumph

8-year-old gelding won the race in 2012, 2013.

Grade 1 winner Twilight Eclipse won his first W. L. McKnight Handicap (G3T) during his initial season of racing in 2012, when he was a 3-year-old and the then-grade 2 race was contested at Calder Race Course. The gelding returned to win the following year's running, and now seeks an unprecedented third victory in the turf marathon at Gulfstream Park Jan. 28. 

"Eight years old and going for a third win in the McKnight this year. ... I think this McKnight would mean a lot if he were to win it again for a third time," trainer Tom Albertrani said of the Purim gelding. "If you look at him train, you wouldn't believe he's a day over 4 years old. He has so much energy to him. It's just amazing. Luckily we've been able to manage his career well. He's been a sound horse."

West Point Thoroughbreds' Twilight Eclipse is one of 12 older males entered in the $200,000 McKnight, a 1 1/2-mile turf race that will be run immediately preceding the inaugural running of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1).

A multiple graded stakes winner, with his biggest score coming when he took the 2015 Man o' War Stakes (G1T), Twilight Eclipse won one of eight starts in 2016, but has consistently kept top company. On four occasions, he finished third in graded races, including the Longines Sword Dancer (G1T) and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (G1T). The McKnight will mark his first race since finishing 10th in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (G1T) last November and will be his 38th career start.

NOVAK: Twilight Eclipse Scores Big in Man o' War
            
"He's run well fresh. There was a time last year where it took him a couple of races to get going—I don't know if it was age or not," Albertrani said. "The way he's been training, I think he's sitting on a good effort."

For the first time Jose Ortiz, a finalist in the 2016 Eclipse Award voting for outstanding jockey, will ride Twilight Eclipse.

"The horse needs to be in the right spot," Albertrani said. "He's had so many difficult trips where he got into trouble. A couple of times it could have made the difference between winning and losing by a head. He has one steady pace where he just needs to have a good trip and try to save ground where he can."

While Twilight Eclipse is a known commodity in the Albertrani barn, the trainer is still getting acquainted with Woodslane Farm's homebred Sadler's Joy, a 4-year-old making his stakes debut in the McKnight. 

A son of Kitten's Joy  out of the Dynaformer mare Dynaire, Sadler's Joy has won his last three starts. He started his roll by capturing a maiden race at Saratoga Race Course in August, and followed with allowance scores at Belmont Park and then Aqueduct Racetrack

"I think he's a very exciting prospect in our barn," Albertrani said. "Last year it took him a couple of races to get himself together. But it's very exciting when you watch this horse run and his late kick. It's a big step up, but we believe the horse has a lot of talent and potentially could be a real useful horse running in these long-distance races for us this year.

"He has no early speed at all. As long as he doesn't get himself too far back where there is no pace—he really has a good kick."

Also entered is Charming Kitten, the 2015 McKnight winner. Now trained by Mike Maker, Charming Kitten won the McKnight for his owners and breeders, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, and trainer Todd Pletcher.
            
The McKnight will mark the first race for Charming Kitten since an overseas excursion to run in Ireland last year in two races. 

Entries: W. L. McKnight H. (G3T)

Gulfstream Park, Saturday, January 28, 2017, Race 11

  • Grade IIIT
  • 1 1/2m
  • Turf
  • $200,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 4:50 PM (local)
PPHorseJockeyWgtTrainerM/L
11Taghleeb (KY)Tyler Gaffalione121Michael J. Maker6/1
22Montclair (IRE)Edgar S. Prado119Armando De la cerda10/1
33Diamond Bachelor (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateLuis Saez119Patrick L. Biancone30/1
44Danish Dynaformer (ON)Joel Rosario123Roger L. Attfield5/1
55Applicator (KY)Leonel Reyes117Mikhail Yanakov50/1
66Charming Kitten (KY)Mike E. Smith119Michael J. Maker9/2
77Twilight Eclipse (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJose L. Ortiz119Thomas Albertrani4/1
88Generous Kitten (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateFlorent Geroux117Michael J. Maker15/1
99Patterson Cross (KY)Jose Lezcano117William I. Mott20/1
1010Mr Maybe (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJavier Castellano121Chad C. Brown6/1
1111Sadler's Joy (KY)Julien R. Leparoux117Thomas Albertrani8/1
1212Hunter O'Riley (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJohn R. Velazquez117James J. Toner15/1