PAN AMERICAN STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 2 | 1 1/2 MILES (TURF)
A world record of 2:22.72 for 1 1/2 miles on turf set by Bright Thought in last week's Grade 2 San Luis Rey at Santa Anita didn't last long as West Point Thoroughbreds' Twilight Eclipse narrowly bested that mark by completing Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Pan American in a time of 2:22.63 over the firm Gulfstream Park turf.
A stalking fourth for more than a mile, Twilight Eclipse moved around a tiring Teaks North around the far turn and then slipped back up the inside to overtake Ioya Bigtime at the top of the stretch. From there, Twilight Eclipse drew off to an authoritative four-length triumph under Javier Castellano and rewarded his backers with mutuels of $12.20, $5.60 and $3.40 as the 5-1 third choice.
In addition to lowering the previous course standard of 2:23 set by the mare Honey Ryder in 2006, Twilight Eclipse bested Bright Thought's briefly-held world record which was set on a course that is partially downhill.
"I handicapped the race knowing a few horses had speed, and this was a perfect dream trip right where I wanted to be," Castellano said. "I'm very fortunate my horse took me into the right spot and I'm very lucky we saved ground the best we could because it was 1 1/2 miles, which is a long way to go. We exploded for home, they opened up and I cut the corner in the last turn saving ground. I let my horse go a little earlier than I expected, but when I did, he took off and responded well. He was amazing and I'm very happy. It was a great performance and he had plenty left. This was my first time on him and it worked out perfectly."
"It's amazing. I was very surprised when I heard it (was a world record). I was just happy to win the race, No. 1. But a track record here and a world record is just amazing -- a great accomplishment for the horse and the team," said winning trainer Tom Albertrani, who indicated Twilight Eclipse might try the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 4.
Holding second, by 1 1/2 lengths, was Ioya Bigtime, who tracked in second behind Teaks North as that rival set early splits of :24 1/5 and :48 1/5. Ioya Bigtime seized control going down the backside for a second time, reaching six furlongs in 1:12 and the mile in 1:35 2/5. No 1 1/4-mile split was available.
Newsdad, the 2012 Pan American winner making his first start since October, made a bold move around the final turn but flattened out late. He finished third, 5 1/2 lengths behind Twilight Eclipse. Completing the order of finish were Belo Aceton, Mucho Mas Macho, Teaks North, Ducduc, Empire Builder, Gossip Column, and Total Reward.
Winner of his first two starts in the span of 17 days at Indiana Downslast June, Twilight Eclipse was transferred from the barn of John Langemeier to Tom Albertrani's prior to the August 30 Equalize at Saratoga. A late-closing sixth in that affair, he was a modest fifth in the Grade 3 Kent in his next start.
Third in the October 21 Temperence Hill at Belmont in his dirt debut, Twilight Eclipse returned to the turf for the Grade 2 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder on November 24. Sent off at 11-1, the four-year-old gelding stalked the pace and second before taking the lead in the stretch and drawing off to win the 1 1/2-mile fixture by 1 3/4 lengths. Twilight Eclipse preceded this victory with a fourth in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream on February 16. His record now stands at 8-4-0-1, $244,611.
Bred in Kentucky by Epona Thoroughbreds, Twilight Eclipse sold for a mere $1,000 as a newly-turned yearling at the Keeneland January sale. Produced by the Twilight Agenda mare My Twilight Dancer, he hails from the family of Grade 2 winner Slavic and multiple Grade 3 winner Mythical Power.
Twilight Eclipse's third dam was multiple stakes winner Alanesian, the ancestress of champion Revidere; Princessnesian, filly winner of the 1968 Hollywood Gold Cup; multiple Grade 1 winner and sire Harlan's Holiday; and multiple Irish highweight Burden of Proof, among other notables.