03/28/2015 7:09PM

Imagining prevails in Pan American

Barbara D. Livingston
Irad Ortiz Jr. collects his second stakes win of the card aboard Imagining in the Pan American.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -  Most of the focus of Saturday’s Grade 2 Pan American Stakes was on Twilight Eclipse, who figured to benefit by the fact that his nemesis, Main Sequence, was halfway around the world running in Dubai.

But Imagining fell victim to Main Sequence several times last year and he, too, figured to benefit from the absence of that horse.

Saturday, when Imagining and Twilight Eclipse hooked up for the final three furlongs 1 1/2-mile Pan American, it was the 7-year-old Imagining who got the better of the two, winning the $150,000 Pan Am by three-quarters of a length. Twilight Eclipse got caught in the final strides for second by Pyrite Mountain.

The win was the ninth in 22 career starts for Imagining, a son of Giant’s Causeway owned by the Phipps Stable and trained by Shug McGaughey.

While Twilight Eclipse lost five times to Main Sequence, Imagining had suffered three losses, including a head loss to him in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga. He had also finished behind Twilight Eclipse in two of three meetings.

Imagining was a Grade 1 winner of 2014 having taken the Man o’ War at Belmont. But he hadn’t won since.

Saturday, after being steadied by Irad Ortiz Jr. around the first turn, Imagining settled into stride early on while Change of Command set the pace. Down the backside, Ortiz guided Imagining to the outside and he dragged Ortiz to Twilight Eclipse, who had taken over from Change of Command.

Imagining and Twilight Eclipse, ridden by Javier Castellano, ran together for the final three furlongs, with Imagining edging away late. Imagining covered the 1 1/2 miles in 2:26.30 and returned $7.40 as the third choice.

“I thought today he beat a very good horse,” McGaughey said. “When they were going down the backside I was thinking the favorite’s getting a perfect trip and we were down on the inside. Irad rode a terrific race on him. He said ‘You told me to make him comfortable. I made him comfortable and then I got him to the outside they hooked up.’ He said he tried to save horse to where he could finish and he did.”

It was the second straight stakes win on the card for Ortiz, who one race earlier won the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks on Birdatthewire.

“He was very relaxed on the inside,” Ortiz said. “When I got him to the outside he jumped on the bit and go.”

McGaughey said that Imagining came back tired and wouldn’t run for a while.

Meanwhile, trainer Tom Albertrani was naturally disappointed that Twilight Eclipse couldn’t take advantage of Main Sequence’s absence.

“He ran well. It turned out to be a sprint toward the end and I just don’t think he has a turn of foot to stay with them when they sprint home like that,” Albertrani said.