It took Graham Motion a long time to get to Gulfstream, but his horse made the trip worthwhile.
The trainer, who is based in Maryland, was stuck in the blizzard that hit the Northeast and flew to Florida early Saturday. He got to the track in time to watch his horse, Inimitable Romanee, close strong under jockey Alan Garcia to take the Grade 3 Very One by a length.
“She ran a big race [and] proved it wasn’t a fluke in the Long Island [last time out],” Motion said. “I’m not surprised that she’s come into herself; I should have tried her at a mile and a half about three years ago, I guess.”
The beginning of the race was delayed when Anjaz was injured at the starting gate and scratched by the veterinarian. That forced all the horses to exit the gate and reload, and Motion admitted he was slightly concerned because Inimitable Romanee was lined up next to Anjaz.
Garcia told Motion he took the horse out aggressively because of the late scratch, and the strategy paid off. The horse was just off the pace for the first mile before she started to make her move on the backstretch. She passed the tiring leaders and cruised to the victory. Garcia said he knew there was a lot of energy left as the horses hit the top of the stretch.
“It was a good trip,” Garcia said. “When she moved out, she kicked in. It was a really good feeling at the quarter pole to have plenty of horse.”
Viva Rafaela bolted out of the gate to take the early lead and set the pace for about a mile and a quarter before running out of steam.
The Brazilian-bred horse held on for third place, just a neck behind Aigue Marine, the British-bred horse who snuck up to place, and a half length in front of Left a Message, who finished fourth.
Preferential went off as the overwhelming favorite and looked comfortable toward the back of the pack early on. However, when Julien Leparoux asked the horse for a kick on the backstretch, there was not enough left, and she faded to fifth.
Tom Albertrani’s day got off to a rough start when Anjaz was scratched, but he got his stakes victory with Twilight Eclipse.
The 5-year-old gelding sat back perfectly off the speedy Alpha and turned on the jets to take home the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida by a length.
“I got a very good trip,” Twilight Eclipse jockey Jose Lezcano said. “I got the position that I wanted behind the two horses with speed. I waited as long as I could, and when I asked him, he gave me a strong run.”
Alpha rocketed out of the gate and took a commanding four-length lead in the first half mile. Bingo Bango Bongo put a little bit of pressure on Alpha but was comfortable to sit back and let the first-time turf starter set the pace.
The two battled for the first mile before fading out of contention.
That gave Twilight Eclipse and the rest of the closers easy targets to chase down the backstretch.
Twilight Eclipse’s kick looked to be decisive until Amen Kitten and Slumber showcased some late speed.
However, both horses ran out of track at the line to place second and third, respectively.
“This horse just never gets tired,” Albertrani said. “The longer the better.”
Twilight Eclipse’s next race will likely be in Dubai in the Sheema Classic on March 29, part of the Dubai World Cup.