Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Catching a recent world record holder at a price is not something easily done, but with Twilight Eclipse lining up for the Grade 1 Man O’ War on Saturday, that’s exactly what I’ll be looking to do. Listed as the 9-2 third choice on the morning line, I look for the four-year-old gelded son of Purim to more than likely drift up into the 6 or 7-1 range considering the pair of bearcats he’ll be facing in the $600,000 turf test. As part of an eight-horse field set to traverse the 1 3/8 mile trip on Belmont’s inner turf course, Boisterous and Optimizer loom the pair that bettors will love. While I have a healthy amount of respect for the winning machine that Boisterous has become, and the long string of solid grass races run by Optimizer, I believe that Twilight Eclipse is ready to roll, and has a great chance to account for his first grade 1 on Saturday.
Two starts ago, the West Point Thoroughbreds runner rewarded his backers with a big performance at 5-1 in the Pan American Stakes at Gulfstream Park. In fact, Twilight Eclipse broke the world record on the grass that day with a blistering 2:22.63 for the twelve furlongs. Ridden by Javier Castellano, the lightly raced turf specialist demonstrated two things in the grade 2 win. First, that running an extended distance was right up his alley, and secondly, a firm turf course was preferable to the softened one that he had found in the previous race when fourth in the Mac Diarmida Stakes.
In his most recent start, Twilight Eclipse was afforded neither of these benefits when running against the best distance turf horse in the nation, Point of Entry. A fresh horse, and cutting back in distance for the ten furlong, Grade 1 Manhattan, the 7-1 shot caught a soggy turf course after 24 hours of rain the day before. With conditions not to his liking, it should not be held against him that he faded to a well beaten fifth that day. Of note, and likely speaking of both his freshness and talent, Twilight Eclipse made a sharp middle move to get into contention on the turn, before the factors of the race caught up to him.
With Optimizer running a big second in that same race (in conditions that suited him just fine), and Boisterous coming off a solid victory at Monmouth, you can see why I believe Twilight Eclipse will have favorable odds in the Man O’ War.
The 1 3/8 distance of the Man O’ War should allow the winner of half of his eight lifetime turf races the opportunity to stretch his long stride while forwardly placed for top rider, Javier Castellano. And without a lot of quality speed in there, he should get a great stalking trip. Signaling his readiness for the test, he has been working very well of late for trainer Thomas Albertrani. As far as the turf condition, the course was firm today, but there is a chance of rain tomorrow, so I will need to do my anti-rain dance over the next 48 hours. If the course is firm, I love him in here.