Newmarket, England: Having set a course record over 1 ½ miles at Gulfstream Park in Florida last year, Twilight Eclipse returned to the same venue for his final prep for the Sheema Classic in February, when he justified favouritism in the Mac Diarmida Handicap (G2) over 11 furlongs (2200 metres).
Alpha, a Godolphin runner who raced in Dubai last year, set a slow pace in the contest, and jockey Jose Lezcano bided his time in third / fourth place through the first half of the race on Twilight Eclipse. He moved up easily around the final bend, took command early in the straight, and ran on strongly to hold a late challenge from Amen Kitten, with second favourite Slumber third.
This was Twilight Eclipse’s sixth career win from 15 starts, and his second in the three appearances at Gulfstream. He ran the 1 1/2-mile trip in a sharp 2:22.6 in the Pan American Handicap (G2) in March 2013, and progressed to run three solid races in defeat against some of the best turf horses in North America, most notably when runner-up both in the Man o’War Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park and Sword Dancer Invitational (G1) at Saratoga.
Twilight Eclipse ran a fine race also at last year’s Breeders’ Cup, though passing the post just 2 ¼ lengths behind the winner Magician only got him sixth place in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).
That was the toughest race he has taken part in, and a similar test awaits him and his handler Tom Albertrani, at Meydan.