Twilight Eclipse ruined the return of favored Newsdad while establishing a new world record for 1 1/2 miles on turf in the $150,000 Pan American Handicap (gr. IIT) March 23 at Gulfstream Park (VIDEO).
Using a rail-skimming ride by Javier Castellano, Twilight Eclipse posted a four-length victory in a time of 2:22.63. The clocking shaved .09 of a second off the time registered by Bright Thought in winning the San Luis Rey Stakes (gr. IIT) March 16 at Santa Anita Park. The prior mark, 2:22.80 by Hawkster at Santa Anita, had stood since Oct. 14, 1989.
Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, Twilight Eclipse registered his second straight victory going 1 1/2 miles for trainer Tom Albertrani. He was sent off at odds of 5-1 in the field of 10 older turf runners.
"It's amazing," said Albertrani. "I was very surprised when I heard it (the world record). I was just happy to win the race, number 1. But a track record here and a world record is just amazing; a great accomplishment for the horse and the team."
Ioya Bigtime held the second spot by 1 1/2 lengths over 8-5 choice Newsdad, who flattened out in the stretch after making an early move on the outside to reach contention on the final turn for Jose Lezcano.
Twilight Eclipse won the W.L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT) to close out his 2012 campaign Nov. 24 at Calder Casino & Race Course. He sharpened up for the Pan American with an even fourth-place effort in the 11-furlong Mac Diarmida Stakes (gr. IIT) Feb. 16 over the Gulfstream course.
"He had a great trip, got through inside and kicked and had plenty left," Albertrani said. "Everything just worked out in our favor. There was firm turf, which he really liked better than it was in the Mac Diarmida. It was an extra furlong, so he's a long distance horse."
Bred in Kentucky by Epona Thoroughbreds, 4-year-old Twilight Eclipse was a $1,000 yearling buy at Keeneland's winter mixed sale in January 2010, purchased by John Langemeier from Select Sales, agent. The bay gelding by Purim out of the Twilight Agenda mare My Twilight Dancer started twice for Langemeier before he was purchased privately by West Point Thoroughbreds.
Newsdad, who won last year's Pan American by two lengths as an odds-on choice, was making his first start since capturing the Fayette Stakes (gr. II) Oct. 27 over the Polytrack at Keeneland.
Twilight Eclipse stalked the pace along the inside in fourth as multiple grade I winner Teaks North showed the way through a half-mile in :48.25. Ioya Bigtime, racing a length off the leader for Jeffrey Sanchez, advanced to take the lead after six furlongs and made the pace from there when Teaks North fell back after they completed the mile in 1:35.52. Twilight Eclipse continued to race in contention along the inside with Newsdad advancing on the outside as they reached the final turn.
Castellano made the winning move when he guided Twilight Eclipse through the opening on the inside entering the homestretch. Twilight Eclipse opened up a 1 1/2-length advantage over Ioya Bigtime and drew off in the final furlong under urging to win easily.
"I'm very fortunate my horse took me into the right spot and I'm very lucky we saved ground the best we could because it was 1 1/2 miles, which is a long way to go," said Castellano, who rode Twilight Eclipse for the first time. "We exploded for home, they opened up and I cut the corner in the last turn saving ground. I let my horse go a little earlier than I expected, but when I did, he took off and responded well. He was amazing and I'm very happy."
Twilight Eclipse earned $90,000 for his fourth win from eight lifetime starts and has now banked $244,611.
The winner carried top weight of 123 pounds and paid $12.20, $5.60, and $3.40 as the fourth choice. Ioya Bigtime, third in the Mac Diarmida last time out, returned $5.80 and $3.40 while completing a $61.60 exacta. Newsdad, who faced just three opponents in winning last year's Pan American, paid $2.60.
Albertrani said he and West Point Thoroughbreds would consider the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) May 4 at Churchill Downs for Twilight Eclipse's next start.
Belo Acteon finished fourth, followed by Mucho Mas Macho, Teaks North, Ducduc, Empire Builder, Gossip Column, and Total Reward.