West Point Thoroughbreds, Inc.’s Twilight Eclipse defended his title in the $125,000 Grade III W.L. McKnight Handicaps after running away with a victory on Saturday at Calder. With Jose Lezcano aboard, Twilight Eclipse took the 1 ½ mile race in wire-to-wire fashion after it moved off the turf.
“Things worked out today,” said owner Tom Bellhouse. “We thought all along that he would adapt to the dirt. He trains like a monster on the dirt, but you don’t know until you actually run in the race.”
After an even start out of the gate, Twilight Eclipse angled inside to take the lead before entering the first turn. He led the race without being challenged until Prince Farm LLC’s Dannhauser closed the gap to only a neck length at the third turn. Once there was pressure, Lezcano asked Twilight Eclipse to go and he spurted clear into the stretch, increasing his lead and capturing a victory by 7 lengths.
“I think he was the best horse in the race,” said jockey Jose Lezcano. “He broke good; I let him do his thing the comfortable way. When I asked him he still had plenty in the tank.”
Twilight Eclipse has one stakes victory since his last W.L. McKnight victory which came in March. He finished sixth in his most recent race at the Breeders’ Cup in November. However, he has not run on the dirt since October 2012 at Belmont Park where he finished third.
“He ran up at Belmont once on the dirt and it was a little green, but today to see this type of performance, it gets us excited for the future,” said Bellhouse. “We came from the Breeders’ Cup and gave him a little extra time off. Then to run like this and win back-to-back McKnights is just a thrill for the partners.”
Twilight Eclipse returned $3.00, $2.60, and $2.10 for the win. Dannhauser paid $7.80 and $4.20 for second, and Flatter This returned $3.40 for third.
Completing the order of finish were Ducduc, Ocean Seven, Twin, Suntracer, and Hariolus.