After six grade one placings, Twilight Eclipse finally notched his first grade one win in the $400,000 Man O’War Stakes on Saturday at Belmont Park. Off as the second choice in the compact field of marathon turf runners, our 6-year-old gelding had a dream trip, sitting just off pacesetter War Dancer before edging clear to prevail by a neck.
Twilight Eclipse finished second or third in his previous six races, with five of those races being won by Eclipse Award winner Main Sequence. The final margin of defeat in four of the five races was less than one length. With Main Sequence recovering from his trip to Dubai, the ever-consistent son of Purim was able to shine on Saturday.
“This horse deserved a grade one win,” said trainer Tom Albertrani. “I know we’ve been finishing second or third a lot, but he always tries and is right there. Without a horse like Main Sequence in the race, he looks like a champion himself. He hasn’t left the barn since he was a three-year-old, he’s as sound as they come and loves his job.”
Javier Castellano had been aboard Twilight Eclipse in his three starts prior to the Man O’War, including the Breeders’ Cup Turf in November. Castellano was also aboard when the gelding broke a world record for a mile and a half in the 2013 Pan American Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream.
“I thought in my mind, turning for home, I could have put a little pressure on the front-runner, because the pace was very slow,” Castellano said. “But (Twilight Eclipse) has a short, short run and good kick. I was a little concerned about the ground, because it was a little soft, and usually that type of horse likes it very firm. But he had so much class today. He just galloped along and was right there.”
The win was especially sweet for West Point Chief Operating Officer Tom Bellhouse, who has a very special place in his heart for Twilight Eclipse. Tom’s been at almost every one of his races and often tears up at the thought of his favorite horse. Needless to say Tommy was grinning from ear to ear when he walked Twilight Eclipse into the winner’s circle at his cherished Belmont Park.
Twilight Eclipse’s tight knit group of Partners got their picture taken with their grade one winner and headed upstairs to the champagne room. Several people toasted to the little brown horse from Indiana Downs who’s now earned over $1.5 million.
Grade one wins are rarely handed out, and one must get used to losing in this game. People keep owning horses despite the losses, injuries, and underachievers to experience the jubilation and magic of seeing their horse cross the wire first in a grade one race. If only time could stand still at that moment.
Congratulations to our Partners and team Albertrani!