Chiefswood Stable homebred Niigon’s Eclipse took command down the back straight and never looked back en route to a prominent score in Sunday’s $196,350 Grade 2 Nassau Stakes, at Woodbine.
Trained by Rachel Halden, the five-year-old Niigon chestnut proved resilient the length of the expansive E.P. Taylor Turf Course turning back challenges from multiple rivals to secure the win in the one-turn mile for fillies and mares, three-years-old and upwards.
Starship Jubilee, the defending Nassau champion was away well under Eurico Rosa da Silva, but Gary Boulanger sent Niigon’s Eclipse to the point through an opening quarter in :23.78.
Niigon’s Eclipse maintained the lead through the sweeping turn as Starship Jubilee rode the rail inside of Ghostly Presence with Grizzel, Gianna’s Dream and Bletchley following their quick tempo through a half-mile in :46.99. Niigon’s Eclipse held a precarious lead at the top of the lane with Starship Jubilee edging off the rail to take on the pacesetter, but Boulanger’s charge had another gear when asked and kicked clear to win by half a length. Bletchley rallied menacingly from last to earn place money, 3 1/4-lengths in front of Gianna’s Dream. Niigon’s Eclipse stopped the clock in 1:32.74.
Boulanger was confident throughout the Grade 2 win despite having last rode the filly to a good third in a turf allowance on September 24, 2016, 10 starts back.
“I rode this filly a couple year’s ago and you can’t fight her too much. You have to get along with her, and the better you do, the harder she’ll kick,” said Boulanger. “She broke good and she got underneath me and when I crossed over Eurico (aboard Starship Jubilee), she started flicking her ears and I figured I’d wait as long as I have to. When I got to the head of the lane and they got to me, I knew I had a big kick and when they came to my hip she just exploded and ran down the lane as hard as anything.”
Halden was full of praise for the daughter of stakes placed Eclipse Bay.
“She’s an absolute sweetheart to be around and deal with. She’s a pleasure and she’s so genuine,” said Halden. “She comes over here in the afternoon and just leaves it all out on the racetrack every time she runs.”
Niigon’s Eclipse went off at odds of 12-1 to the surprise of the connections.
“Me and Gary joked about that in the paddock. I was a little surprised they weren’t showing a little more respect,” noted Halden. “That was a huge race that she ran at Keeneland (2nd, April 13, 2018) and she loves it here. The mile to me is her ideal trip…and I was a bit surprised about the price, but that’s okay, she didn’t know.”
Niigon’s Eclipse banked $126,000 in victory and now boasts a career record of 5-5-3 from 16 career starts.
She paid $26.70, $10.90 and $4.60 combining with Bletchley ($6.30, $4.60) for a 6-5 exacta worth $173.90. A $1 trifecta of 6-5-2 (Gianna’s Dream, $5.60) paid $490.15 and a $1 superfecta of 6-5-2-4 (Starship Jubilee) returned $1101.40. Jennifer Lynnette was scratched.
Live racing continues at Woodbine on Wednesday evening at 6:45 p.m., with a seven-race program.