Breeders’ Cup Photo ©
He was right there, closing in strongly while hardly noticed at all. It was arguably the best race of his career, and if he can repeat it, he might have a chance to pull off an astonishing upset in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I) on October 31st at Keeneland.
The horse I’m talking about is Twilight Eclipse, and the strong performance I’m referencing is his third-place finish in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Turf. In one of the strongest but most overlooked performances of last year’s Breeders’ Cup, Twilight Eclipse produced a strong rally to finish third despite encountering some traffic. All told, he was beaten just 1 3/4 lengths for victory, and just 1 1/4 lengths for second-place. If he had gotten a slightly cleaner run in the homestretch, he might have finished closer.
Naturally, most bettors will be focusing their attention in this year’s Turf on Flintshire and Golden Horn, who won the Arc in spectacular fashion on October 4th. They are bound to be the two favorites, and will be included on the majority of Pick 4 and Pick 6 tickets, but based on the results of the 2014 Turf, Twilight Eclipse might have a legitimate chance to beat them with a good trip.
Of course, a brief glance at Twilight Eclipse’s record this year doesn’t inspire confidence that he will win the Turf. From seven starts, he’s only won once, defeating War Dancer by a neck in the Man o’ War Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park. Additionally, he was beaten 5 3/4 lengths by Flintshire in the Sword Dancer Stakes (gr. I) on August 29th at Saratoga, never really threatening after trailing the field and rallying wide.
But on closer examination, Twilight Eclipse’s form looks better. His best efforts have come in races with solid early paces, and he was compromised in the Sword Dancer by slow fractions that favored Flintshire’s spectacular turn-of-foot. Given a fast pace, Twilight Eclipse’s ability to stay within range and still finish strongly is an advantage over Flintshire, who has to work harder to keep up early on. Given the quality of the field for the Breeders’ Cup Turf, a solid pace is likely to unfold, which should benefit Twilight Eclipse.
But an even bigger reason why Twilight Eclipse warrants respect is his performance last month in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. I) at Belmont Park. After settling nicely behind a fast pace, Twilight Eclipse lost ground and momentum at a key point in the race when trapped behind the tiring pace-maker Shining Copper, but despite this costly setback, Twilight Eclipse rallied strongly to finish third by three-quarters of a length while victorious Big Blue Kitten shattered the course record.
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