Twilight Eclipse came up just a few feet shy in his last start, the Grade I United Nations at Monmouth on July 6, but trainer Tom Albertrani was OK with that.
The 5-year-old gelding was running just his second race back in North America after shipping out to Dubai for the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic, and Albertrani was pleased to see Twilight Eclipse show he was back to his old self and up for Grade I competition.
He’ll get a chance at moving forward today in the Grade I Sword Dancer at Saratoga Race Course, the 5-2 morning-line second choice behind 2-1 Main Sequence, the horse that beat him by a neck at Monmouth.
“He ran well, and naturally, you’re a little disappointed to be only beaten a short margin,” Albertrani said, “but you’re glad to see your horse come back after a long trip from Dubai, and he comes back and runs one of his best races. In that regard, I was just happy to see him come back and run well.”
The 11⁄2-mile Sword Dancer, run on the inner turf, also features 7-2 Imagining, Ward Dancer, O’Prado Ole, Perfect Timber and Amira’s Prince.
Twilight Eclipse was second in this race last year, finishing a length behind Big Blue Kitten. Since his close second in the United Nations, Albertrani said he is training as well as he ever has, and he feels breaking from the far outside post will help Twilight Eclipse and jockey Jose Lezcano find the trip they
“In his last race, I thought he might have been stuck in behind horses,” Albertrani said. “Even though he was up close, he was kind of following one horse on the lead. I thought for a moment, he might have gotten a little checked in there for longer than he needed to be, where he couldn’t really use his best strides to get loose earlier. We’re drawing well on the outside, where he should have a good, clear trip.”
Main Sequence, trained by Graham Motion, rallied from ninth to win that last meeting. It was his first win since May 12, 2012, when he won his fourth straight to start his career while racing in Great Britain. Main Sequence and jockey Rajiv Maragh will break from post 4.
Imagining has won twice at 13⁄8 miles, including the Grade I Man o’ War on May 11 at Belmont Park, when he beat Real Solution. Real Solution, who ran Saturday in the Arlington Million, came back and bested Imagining in the Grade I Manhattan on June 7.
In addition to looking comfortable at the distance, Imagining also is 4-1-0 in five career races coming off a layoff.
“I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t run a good race,” McGaughey said. “He’s trained well. I think the horse with Graham Motion is probably a pretty good horse, but I think we’ll make a good account of ourselves.”
For Imagining, the key may be breaking well and either grabbing the early lead or stalking it with room to maneuver.
“He’s the kind of horse who doesn’t need a straw in his path,” McGaughey said. “If he gets jumbled up, that’s not good. But he’s come from off the pace and run good races, and he’s been on the lead and run good ones.”
Albertrani isn’t overly concerned with how the pace sets up, as Twilight Eclipse is fairly tactical.
“He’s a horse that, if there’s no pace, he’s just going to drag Jose up to the lead, as we’ve seen in the past. If it’s a good, honest pace, he knows to put himself just a couple lengths off the leaders,” he said. “He’s pretty much automatic. He just puts himself in a good spot most of the time.”
Alpha, winner of the 2012 Travers (in a dead heat with Golden Ticket) and the 2013 Woodward here, returns to Saratoga for the Alydar on today’s undercard.
The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained son of Bernardini is 4-0-0 from five starts here, missing the board in last year’s Whitney. He also won the Jim Dandy in 2012 and broke his maiden here in his debut on Sept. 3, 2011.
Alpha has been installed as the 9-5 morning-line favorite for the 11⁄8-mile race for horses 4 and up who have not won a graded stakes this year. Dawly is the second choice at 3-1, and Stormin Monarcho the 7-2 third choice. The field is rounded out by Easter Gift, Csaba and Farhaan.