After tracking pacesetter Alpha and Bingo Bango Bongo from third, the 4-year-old Purim gelding surged off the turn to get the lead and cruised to a one-length win over the late-running Amen Kitten. He was timed in 2:15.18 from 1 3/8 miles on firm turf.
"I got a very good trip," winning rider Jose Lezcano said. "I got the position that I wanted behind the two horses with speed. I waited as long as I could and when I asked him he gave me a strong run."
Trainer Tom Albertrani was impressed with his runner's effort as the 7-5 choice in the field of nine older horses.
"Did you see when he came back?" he said. "He (Lezcano) couldn't pull him up. This horse, just never gets tired. The longer the better."
Twilight Eclipse has won six of 15 career starts with earnings of $712,786. Albertrani said the winner will be pointed to the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) on the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) undercard March 29 at Meydan Racecourse. The Dubai Sheema Classic is run at 2,410 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) on turf.
"We were talking about going to Dubai with him. We got the invite to go, depending on the outcome today. I think that's what we're going to do," Albertrani said. "He seems like he's matured quite a bit. He's filled out some this year. Hopefully, we can have another big year ahead of ourselves."
Fourth in last year's edition of the Mac Diarmida, Twilight Eclipse rebounded to set a world record time of 2:22.63 for 1 1/2 miles in the Pan American Stakes (gr. IIT) at Gulfstream. The bay gelding was making his season debut in the Mac Diarmida following a wire-to-wire seven-length romp in the off-the-turf W. L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT) Dec. 28 at Calder Casino & Race Course. He also won the 2012 McKnight.
Making his turf debut, former classics starter Alpha took the lead soon after the start and set easy fractions of :25.43, :49.85, 1:15.79 and 1:40.18 through a mile, with Twilight Eclipse tracking in a good rhythm.
"We were thinking Alpha might go and we knew (Bingo Bango Bongo) might kind of put a little pressure on him. We were in a good spot," Albertrani said.
Twilight Eclipse paid $4.80, $3.20 and $2.40 while keying a $28.50 exacta with Amen Kitten, who paid $5.20 and $3.40. Biding his time in fourth throughout, Slumber gained late to finish third, a neck behind Amen Kitten, paying $2.80.
Spent from his front-running efforts, 2012 Travers (gr. I) and Woodward Stakes (Gr. I) winner Alpha finished fifth, 1 1/2 lengths behind fourth-place finisher Suntracer. Mucho Mas Macho, Bingo Bango Bongo, Cozy Kitten, and Dashing David completed the order of finish.
Bred in Kentucky by Epona Thoroughbreds. John Langemeier purchased Twilight Eclipse out of the Select Sales consignment at the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale for the bargain price of $1,000. An earner of 712,786, he is out of the Twilight Agenda mare My Twilight Dancer.
Twilight Eclipse raced in honor of the eight Thoroughbreds killed in a barn fire Feb. 9 in Georgetown, Ky. The horses belonged to Langemeier and Clara Fenger, from whom West Point Thoroughbreds acquired Twilight Eclipse in June 2012.