By Byron King BloodHorse
Having already won 17 stakes races in 2020, including four grade 1s with different horses, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners will look to add to its list of stakes tallies at the Breeders’ Cup Nov. 6-7 at Keeneland.
The syndicate hopes to run as many as seven horses in Breeders’ Cup races, plus potentially another two in undercard stakes. Its Breeders’ Cup prospects, most of whom are raced with different partners, include Spanish Loveaffair in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1T), Dirty Dangle in the Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2T), Gretzky the Great in the Juvenile Turf Presented by Coolmore America (G1T), Valiance and Point of Honor in the Longines Distaff (G1), Speech in the Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), and Bulletproof One in the Turf Sprint (G1T).
“Touch wood, we get there in good order in the next two and a half weeks,” said Aron Wellman, president and founder of Eclipse and a Breeder’s Cup board member.
Valiance and Point of Honor are also entered as racing and/or broodmare prospects in The November Sale at Fasig-Tipton Nov. 8.
This fall’s Breeders’ Cup lineup would be the deepest for Eclipse, which began in 2011 and has accumulated a 1-0-4 record with 14 Breeders’ Cup starters. Its first win came last year in the Juvenile Fillies Turf with the Graham Motion-trained Sharing, who Eclipse owns with Gainesway Stable. Previously, Eclipse picked up thirds with Vibrance in the 2018 Juvenile Fillies (G1), Capo Bastone in the 2012 Juvenile (G1), Curalina in the 2015 Distaff, and Sweet Cat in the 2011 Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Although none of the seven this year are expected to go off as the favorite, they are threats. All are stakes winners this year, and Gretzky the Great, Valiance, and Speech have captured grade 1s.
(The Paddy Gallagher-trained Red Lark, winner of the Del Mar Oaks (G1T), is Eclipse’s fourth grade 1 winner of 2020.)
Speech’s victory came over the Keeneland surface when she won the 1 1/16-mile Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1) in a then-track record time of 1:41.26, a clocking bettered this fall from grade 1-winning older horse Knicks Go in an allowance optional claimer in 1:40.79.
Speech, a daughter of Mr. Speaker owned by Eclipse, Sol Kumin’s Madaket Stables, and Heider Family Stables, later ran fourth in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs Sept. 4 with a troubled trip. That was her last start.
Wellman said Eclipse already running Valiance and Point of Honor in the Distaff played a role in opting to run the Michael McCarthy-trained Speech in the Filly & Mare Sprint, though he said distance was a major consideration in her Breeders’ Cup placement. The Distaff is 1 1/8 miles, while the Filly & Mare Sprint is seven furlongs.
“A mile and an eighth could be a little outside her comfort zone distance-wise,” he said. “We felt like she has tactical speed but the cutback off a series of big, two-turn races might hit her between the eyes. We’re anticipating a lot of speed in the lineup between Serengeti Empress, Gamine, Venetian Harbor, and a couple other speed horses in there. Speech might get the right kind of trip going the elongated sprint distance.”
Her trip in the Oaks, in which she was troubled at the start, bumped into the first turn, and raced widest down the backstretch, was one of the few disappointing outcomes for Eclipse this year. According to Ownerview.com statistics posted Oct. 20, the syndicate is enjoying its best year, both in wins (58) and earnings ($3,955,130)—with more than two months left to race and despite reduced opportunities in the spring due to COVID-19.
“This has been a very trying year. It’s been a difficult year for people,” Wellman said. “Thankfully, despite the obstacles and the challenges that (COVID-19) has presented—and most of our partners being grounded at home for the better part of the year—our stable has certainly stepped up, thanks to the horses and the trainers, and all of their staff, the jockeys that are riding. They’ve delivered. It’s been a real, real positive distraction for our partners to have the stable performing at such a high level.”
Even after the Breeders’ Cup, Eclipse has more bullets left in 2020. Sharing, who missed a start in the Oct. 10 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Presented by Dixiana (G1T) due to recurring foot setbacks, is targeted for the Matriarch Stakes (G1T) Nov. 29 at Del Mar, and Independence Hall, who Eclipse owns with Twin Creeks Racing Stables and R K V Racing, has the seven-furlong Runhappy Malibu Stakes (G1) Dec. 26 at Santa Anita Park as a year-end goal, possibly with a prep race before it.
The latter worked five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 Oct. 17 at Santa Anita for McCarthy, who took over his training from Mike Trombetta this fall when the Constitution colt was sent west to California.
“He looks fantastic. The time (off) seems to have done him a world of good,” Wellman said of the 3-year-old, who was pulled from the Triple Crown trail this spring after he disappointed in two-turn races.