Race of the Week 2017

Alpha, Twilight Eclipse to clash in Mac Diarmida

The 2014 renewal of the G2 Mac Diarmida Stakes drew a field of 10. Among the cast of characters assembled is a trio of Kitten’s Joy’s progeny, a world record holder, a first time U.S. starter, and a first time turf runner. Such a diverse cast should have made for an interesting handicapping session, but such was not the case as it clearly became obvious that this was a field that could very easily be divided into the “haves” and “have nots.”
Out of the ten assembled, Grade 1 winner Alpha is the most intriguing of the bunch. In his 19 career starts, the son of Bernardini has never raced on turf, but there is a first time for everything. “We feel like we’ve always wanted to try the turf,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He’s out of a Nijinsky mare, and there’s a lot of turf in the family. We were able to work him on the turf and see how he liked it. He’s always been good on the lead, and going a mile and three-eighths on the turf, I think he will be on the lead. If he likes the turf, we have a whole new lease on life with him.”
Alpha hails from a classy distaff family.  By Nijinsky and out of the Alydar mare Hiaam, his dam Munnaya won just once in four career starts with her lone win coming on Lingfield’s polytrack. The mare has had much more success in the breeding shed, and she has produced turf and dirt runners. Along with the ability to handle either surface, the mare has also passed on to her progeny a huge dose of stamina. Along with classic winner Alpha, Munnaya has Lavender Sky and Numaany to her credit. Lavender Sky was multiple graded stakes placed on the turf and a winner at distances up to 10 furlongs. Numaany was not a stakes type runner, but he was quite long-winded, winning at distances up to 14 furlongs on the dirt.
Aside from the success of Munnaya in the breeding shed, his second dam Hiaam was a half to several black type winners. Her siblings included Gorgeous, a multiple graded stakes runner on dirt at middle distances, graded stakes winning sprinter Key to the Moon, and 1990 Kentucky Oaks heroine Seaside Attraction. With such runners in his distaff family, there is every indication to believe that Alpha could very well take to the turf. He has already proven that he has enough stamina to win at 10 furlongs, and his long-winded siblings indicate that he could successfully stretch even further out. The biggest and most obvious question is just whether or not he can get over the turf.
The heavy weight of the field is Twilight Eclipse, the world record holder for a mile and a half. Last year the gelded son of Purim ran 4th in this event. Though 11 furlongs has generally proven to be a bit short for the gelding, he has nonetheless had some success running that particular distance. After running 4th in last year’s Mac Diarmida, Twilight Eclipse then ran 2nd to Boisterous at the same distance in the G1 Man O’ War. Like Alpha, Twilight Eclipse likes to be part of the pace early or sitting close to the pace if there is a lot of speed.
“A lot depends on the pace scenario,” Tom Albertrani, the gelding’s trainer, said. “He did it on the front end last time because there was no pace at all. He’s pretty versatile. If there’s no speed he likes to be a little closer; if there’s a strong pace then he’s going to be just a little off of it. This horse’s whole key is his stamina. He’s a mile-and-a-half horse. He loves to run all day.”
On paper, Twilight Eclipse looks like he will be in the mix early. Aside from himself and Alpha, the only other entrant likely to go for the lead is long shot Bingo Bango Bongo. The 6-year old intact son of Saarland has not won a race since May of last year and takes a big step up in class for this spot. He has the advantage of being closest to the rail out of the trio, but from a class stand point, he is nowhere near his two outside pace rivals.
Prolific turf sire Kitten’s Joy is represented by Suntracer, Amen Kitten, and Cozy Kitten. As is generally typical of Kitten’s Joy’s runners, all three will be coming from off the pace in the latter stages of the game. Suntracer drew the rail and looks to be up against it. His last win was in October 2012. He has a win over the Gulfstream course but was well beaten by Twilight Eclipse last out. Amen Kitten and Cozy Kitten drew adjacent to one another in posts 7 and 8 respectively. Amen Kitten enters the race in good form, running 3rd in the G1 Hollywood Derby last out, just 2 ¼ lengths behind the winner, and is in with a good shot. Cozy Kitten takes a class jump off a long string of optional claimers.
The field also includes Dashing David, who is making his U.S. debut, Mucho Mas Macho, upset winner of last year’s Ft. Lauderdale here at Gulfstream, stakes tested Slumber, and main track only entrant Micromanage. Dashing David has yet to be tested past a mile with all his wins coming in turf sprints across the pond. Mucho Mas Macho hasn’t seen the winner’s circle since his 2013 Ft. Lauderdale upset. Slumber owns a pair of optional claiming victories in the states but has thus far been a cut below the best in stakes company. Of the three, though, he stands the best chance of standing in the winner’s circle when all is said and done.
The Selections: Twilight Eclipse is the turf class of the field, and though the race is a bit short for his taste, I think he can get the job done. Amen Kitten and Slumber simply cannot be ignored. Alpha is a huge question mark. He did okay on tapeta at Meydan last year, and his pedigree indicates that turf should not be a problem. Ignore at your own risk. 


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Older Comments about Alpha, Twilight Eclipse to clash in Mac Diarmida...

Amen Kitten!
Slumber is my pick..hoping he's at least 4-1 in here
This is Twilight Eclipse's race to lose, but watch out for Suntracer at big odds.
Anyone else find it humorous they took him half way aroind the world to run on Tapeta, yet they haven't tried turf?
Alpha is bred to be effective on turf. Stamina will be there as well. The question is like the answer: "DID THE TEAM PREPARED HIM RIGHT TO PUT HIS HEAD IN FRONT OF THE OTHERS ?"
Why can't Alpha just run in New York? Not that he knows where the state line is, but it sure has seemed that way. He should have run in the Cigar Mile. And case of the slows, Golden Ticket, should have run in the Hawthorne Gold Cup. It's like their schedules were screwed up. I've been WAY off with any handicapping lately, though, so who knows, but I'd much rather see Alpha on dirt.
oops now I see it was Micromanage
WRONG STYLE wrong style
thought I saw MTO for Alpha so that would mean no turf although the idea is interesting
Alpha on the turf, hmmm, interesting and it's not Saratoga, either.

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