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Strong field set for Mac Diarmida

Between them, Twilight Eclipse and Kaigun have knocked out more than $3 million while facing the likes of Wise Dan, Main Sequence, Flintshire, and Karakontie. But while both figure prominently Saturday in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida, there's nothing written in stone saying that Twilight Eclipse or Kaigun has to win the 25th running of the Gulfstream Park fixture.

All but one of their opponents in the $200,000 Mac Diarmida has registered a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure within their last three starts, which helps make for a particularly competitive renewal of the 1 3/8-mile turf race.

Twilight Eclipse merits the most respect, if only on seniority and a proud history in this race. Purchased privately by West Point Thoroughbreds in the summer of 2012, the gelding has never skipped a turn in the Mac Diarmida, finishing fourth in 2013, first in 2014, and second in 2015. His career earnings from 29 starts exceed $1.8 million.

"He always seems to run his race," trainer Tom Albertrani told Gulfstream publicity this week, "but there's always a race or two where he's found himself in some trouble. Hopefully, we can get a little better racing luck with him, and if he keeps his form, I think we'll have another great season with him."

Kaigun, an earner of $1.2 million for Gary Barber and partners, will be looking to snap an eight-race losing streak that dates to a triumph in the Grade 2 Seabiscuit at Del Mar in November 2014. The Mark Casse-trained 6-year-old gelding will break from the rail post in a field of seven older horses.

"He's a versatile horse," said Casse. "He comes and he plays hard every time."

The Mac Diarmida is named for the 1978 turf champion trained by the late Scotty Schulhofer. It directly follows the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap as the 12th of 13 Saturday races and is set for 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

The Mac Diarmida is one of two graded grass races on the card, with its filly-and-mare cousin, the Grade 3, $150,000 The Very One, going as the fifth race at 1:56. Half of the six-horse field hails from the powerhouse barn of Chad Brown, with Dacita sure to come favored over her stablemates Guapaza and Olorda.

Dacita defeated Tepin as a rallying winner of the Grade 2 Ballston Spa in a memorable North American debut last summer at Saratoga. Dacita will be adding blinkers and will have Javier Castellano up. She breaks from post 1 in the 1 3/16-mile turf race.

This is the 32nd running of the The Very One, named for a millionaire mare who won at least one stakes annually from 1978-81.

Key Contenders

MAC DIARMIDA STAKES

Twilight Eclipse, by Purim

Last 3 Beyers: 95-106-105

Winner of the Grade 1 Man o' War at Belmont last spring, he will be ridden by Luis Saez in his first start since finishing eighth in the Oct. 31 Breeders' Cup Turf at Keeneland.

Kaigun, by Northern Afleet

Last 3 Beyers: 96-102-98

Formerly typecast as a turf miler, this Ontario-bred has met with solid results since competing in longer races since last October, including runner-up finishes behind Saturday foes Mr Maybe in the Red Smith at Aqueduct and Da Big Hoss in the John B. Connally at Sam Houston.

THE VERY ONE

Dacita, by Scat Daddy

Beyers: 86-103

A winner in six of nine starts in her native Chile, this chestnut mare was a mere 5-1 in the BC Filly and Mare Turf off her explosive U.S. unveiling at Saratoga. She finished ninth in the Filly and Mare Turf, which was her last start.

Shows 10 works at Palm Meadows since mid-December in preparing for her return.

Olorda, by Lord of England

Last 3 Beyers: 83-93-82

Blinkers come off this German-bred 4-year-old filly, who began her career in Germany and France and has raced exclusively in Grade 1 company since being imported by owner Marty Schwartz.