What is known is that world records are falling like dominoes in California and Florida turf marathons. Last week it was Bright Thought who raced a mile and a half in 2:22.72, setting a new world record in the famed San Luis Rey.
That took 24 years. But the record book ink was hardly dry when today at Gulfstream Park, a week after Bright Thought did his thing at Santa Anita Park, Twilight Eclipse needed only 2:22.63 to rewrite recent history.
At least the record will remain within the family of this country’s two prime-time winter venues.
Last week, Bright Thought simply overpowered his San Luis Rey rivals. Today, Twilight Eclipse, brought to tops by trainer Tom Albertrani, used the firm course much better than the “good” ground he had for the MacDiarmida.
There was that, the fact it was his second start as a 4-year-old, the three drills that his trainer put into him since the seasonal debut, and absolute pluperfect handling from Gulfstream’s leading rider, Javier Castellano.
Twilight Eclipse was Castellano's second of three wins on the day.
From post 9 in the three-turn affair, Castellano was able to save ground instantly and never got off the hedge, bursting through for the lead at headstretch before drawing off astride a very willing and ready partner.
Runnerup Ioya Bigtime was gallant in defeat, stalking the speedy Tweaks North throughout, taking over but without getting clear following the second of three turns, was ready for a battle but was no match for the turn of foot and power of the winner.
Defending Pan American champion finished third as the 17-10 favorite in his first start as a 5-year-old. Newsdad looked the part in the paddock but ran into a pair of buzz saws, finishing 1-1/2 lengths behind the runnerup and a total of 5-1/2 behind the new world record holder.
“Everything worked in our favor,” Albertrani said post-race. There was a firm turf and he got a great trip, got through on the inside and kicked and had plenty left.” Did it come as a surprise?
“I was just happy to win the race,” said the trainer. I was very surprised when I heard [it was a world record]. It’s amazing.”
Albertrani will confer with the West Point Thoroughbreds partners that own the gelding and will give the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs due consideration.
And why not? This guy just might only be getting started.
Noteworthy Performances Along the Triple Crown Trail
Three horses emerged as interesting prospects among this year’s three-year-old class; if not for the Kentucky Derby than for somewhere along the way it was is shaping up as a good season for sophomore racers.
The fact that Team Valor, the sponsor of the Turfway Park’s Rushaway Stakes, had an entrant in the Spiral Stakes sub-feature was not lost on the crowd.
Crop Report--who finished well after the fact for third in his U.S. debut on turf Feb. 23 at Gulfstream, added blinkers, went to the post with Lasix and Joel Rosario for the second time—opened at 1-5 on the tote and closed as the 3-5 favorite.
He did not disappoint.
In fact, with Rosario reprising his last run heroics last seen on Vyjack in the Gotham a fortnight ago, Crop Report, trailing by five lengths while out in the center of the track, leveled off and put in a sustained late run over a badly cuppy-out and dry surface to win the 1-1/16 miles in 1:45.66.
The final three furlongs of the two turner was run in :32.52, quite solid given the conditions, and Crop Report ran at least a full second faster than that, not a bad synthetic debut. He has yet to run on dirt, having two starts on turf at 2 and his two races this year.
After the race, in which principal owner Barry Irwin presented the winning trophy to himself, put the effort in perspective:
“I don’t know if he improved today, to tell you the truth. We’ve never had a horse like this. He’s a May 31st foal... When he’s in motion he’s as good as Animal Kingdom. But he’s so immature and so klutzy from the gate that he gives up five, seven, eight lengths at the start.
“But he’s not going to make the Derby. I don’t know about the Blue Grass, we’ll see how he comes back. I think he’s an exciting prospect for a race like the Belmont.”
Irwin may not be thinking Derby, but Kelly Breen and Mark Casse, the trainers of the first two finishers in the featured Spiral Stakes, Black Onyx and Uncaptured, respectively, are forging ahead with their Derby plans.
“He’s proven he’s a multi-talented horse,” said Breen of Black Onyx, who last won a Gulfstream allowance race in which Crop Report finished third. “He’s won on dirt, turf, and now Polytrack. His next start will be the Derby.” The colt earned himself 50 Derby qualifying points with yesterday’s win.
"I was extremely happy,” said Mark Casse of the runnerup, Uncaptured. “If all goes well we’ll go from here to the Blue Grass and then into the Derby.” Casse then was asked about the 10 furlong distance.
“You never know. But we do know one thing: he's two-for-two at Churchill Downs.” The Spiral was Uncaptured’s 3-year-old debut. As a 2-year-old, the colt won six of seven starts, including the pair in Louisville.