Eclipse Primed for Big Weekend

Eclipse Primed for Big Weekend

By Christie DeBernardis

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL–Eclipse Thoroughbreds has a big Saturday ahead of them with four graded stakes runners across the globe, headlined by Current (Curlin) in the GI Florida Derby. They also have the undefeated Point of Honor (Curlin) in the GII Gulfstream Park Oaks, Gray Magician (Graydar) in the G2 UAE Derby and Ohio (Brz) (Elusive Quality) in the GI Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita.

Current (above) has done his best running on the turf so far, including a defeat of recent GIII Palm Beach S. victor A Thread of Blue (Hard Spun) in his second-out graduation on the Belmont lawn in October and a victory in the GIII Dixiana Bourbon S. at Keeneland a month later. Seventh in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs, the $725,000 KEESEP buy filled the same spot in his lone try on dirt in a muddy renewal of the GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. beneath the Twin Spires Nov. 24. Returning to the turf at Gulfstream Feb. 3, he was third to A Thread of Blue in the Dania Beach S.

“His success, obviously, has come on the grass,” said Eclipse President and Founder Aron Wellman. “We did try him in the Kentucky Jockey Club. It was a really wet track that day and he had a really rough trip, so we feel as though we did not get a very accurate gauge about what his true capability would be on the dirt. He has trained well enough on the dirt at Palm Beach Downs that it is something we have had in the back of our minds. There is a little bit of a lull in the graded stakes turf program at the moment, so we thought this was a good opportunity to be able to take one more shot to see if he could rise to a proper level on the dirt.”

Current won’t have it easy in the Florida Derby, which has attracted a full field of 11, including GII Fountain of Youth S. top two Code of Honor (Noble Mission {GB}) and Bourbon War (Tapit), as well as ‘TDN Rising Star’ Hidden Scroll (Hard Spun).

“It is not light on competition or quality,” Wellman said. “This race is right in our backyard and we have a good draw, we think. On the inside, going two turns at Gulfstream, is a pretty favorable position to be in. Our secondary plan was running in the [GII Toyota] Bluegrass, where we would have to ship and were unsure of what the weather would be like or our draw. So, we thought it was probably in the horse’s best interest to stay here. At the end of the day, it is going to boil down to, whether Current is good enough to compete on the dirt at this level.”

Point of Honor (above), on the other hand, is already two-for-two on dirt. Eclipse bought into the filly after her six-length debut romp going 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream Dec. 16 and she followed that up with a decisive score in the Pasco S. at Tampa Feb. 9.

“We are very excited about her coming into this race,” Wellman said. “We knocked out a plan with Mr. [John] Connelly [of Stetson Racing] and George Weaver, which included the first step in the Suncoast S. and we were very please with that effort. We have given her gracious spacing between her races, which we think she will benefit from. We are looking forward to a big performance from her tomorrow.”

Point of Honor is the likely favorite in Saturday’s GI Kentucky Oaks qualifier, but she will have to contend with a good-looking maiden winner from the Chad Brown barn in Dunbar Road (Quality Road).

“Again it is a really nice group of fillies,” Wellman said. “Chad’s Quality Road filly, Dunbar Road, could be any kind. The fact that Chad decided to shift gears and push her up a week says a lot about what he thinks about that filly and how well she must be training.”

He continued, “We have a lot of confidence in Point of Honor. She is doing well and we have conviction that she is a really, really high quality filly. Again, it will really be a matter of her going out, executing the game plan and proving she is a high-caliber filly capable of earning her way into the Kentucky Oaks.”

It has already been a good week for Curlin with one of his 2-year-old sons topping the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale Wednesday at $3.65 million and Wellman, who campaigned MGISW Curalina (Curlin) in the Eclipse colors, said he hopes that will continue.

“We are big fans of the sire and it is an honor associated with these animals with a filly in the Gulfstream Park Oaks and a colt in the Florida Derby” Wellman said.

Across the globe in Dubai on what is one of the biggest nights of racing, Eclipse will be represented by Gray Magician (above) in the UAE Derby, which also offers points towards the Run for the Roses. Graduating by 9 1/2 lengths in his fourth attempt at Del Mar Nov. 24, the gray was fourth in the GIII Sham S. Jan. 5 and was off the board in a Jan. 31 optional claimer, but finished second last time in Laurel’s Miracle Wood S.

“He is a little bit more under the radar, but he is a colt that we have always been very high on,” Wellman said. He broke his maiden very impressively and we set out on an ambitious path with him right after that. Things did not go all that well for him, but he still did not disgrace himself. There were some hidden good numbers and good races that he ran.”

As for why they chose Dubai, Wellman said, “He is right now just a cut below what it would take to consider a major Derby prep, so with that in mind, we decided to make a road warrior out of him and go for the ultimate money run to Dubai to try to get a piece of this $2.5 million pot they have up for grabs over there. He is a very talented horse. Whether he sees out the 1 3/16-mile trip is a bit of a mystery. He is also a very hot-blooded individual, so it will be interesting to see whether or not he handles the desert heat and all of the elements that go along with the World Cup night extravaganza. We think we brought a horse capable of making his presence felt for sure.”


On re-opening weekend at Santa Anita, Eclipse will send out the first horse they ever claimed, Ohio (above), in the Kilroe Mile. Picked up out of a $50,000 claimer in June, the gelding won at that level next out at Del Mar, captured a stakes race at Turf Paradise and placed in a pair of graded events in California.

“Ohio is a horse hard not to love,” Wellman said. “He actually became the first ever claim for Eclipse. It is not our typical method of acquiring racehorses, but he is a horse, who, ever since coming from South America to California, I’ve had my eye on. In fact, after the first or second time that he ever ran in the States, I did offer quite a healthy sum of money to acquire him privately, but his connections at the time turned me down.”

He continued, “It got to the point where they were running him for a $50,000 tag. I huddled up with Michael McCarthy and Bruce Treitman, a partner of ours, who does acquire some horses via the claim box, and we decided to take the plunge. Michael has done exceptional job resuscitating Ohio. He has been a lot of fun and has been a high class horse. We are really looking forward to running him in a Grade I tomorrow. He has paid his way and then some and hopefully tomorrow will be the icing on the cake.”

Wellman will be in Hallandale Beach for Current and Point of Honor’s race, while some other members of the Eclipse team will be in attendance in Dubai and California.

“I stayed after the [Fasig-Tipton] sale on Wednesday,” Wellman said. “It was sort of a last minute audible to run Current here, but we were always aiming for the Oaks for Point of Honor, so I was going to stay for her no matter what. We have representation in Dubai, which is fantastic, and the folks out in California will be there for Ohio, so we have all our bases covered. Hopefully, we can find our way to the winner’s circle in one of these big races and provide our partners with the thrill they deserve.”

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