She's triumphed 10 times in 14 starts in the United States in the past two seasons and is on a four-race winning streak, all coming in graded stakes during the recent Santa Anita meet. But for all Tuscan Evening has accomplished, the one thing that has eluded her is a grade I victory, an omission she'll try to correct in the $250,000 Gamely Stakes May 29 at Hollywood Park.
It won't be easy. Among her seven rivals in a stellar Gamely will be multiple grade I winner Forever Together, the 2008 Eclipse Award winner as the nation's outstanding female on grass, and a host of other grade II winners. The Gamely, at nine furlongs on the Hollywood turf course, is the ninth race on the program with a 5:05 p.m. PDT post.
Tuscan Evening, a 5-year-old Irish-bred daughter of Oasis Dream owned by William DeBurgh, has been sensational this year for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. During the Santa Anita season, the bay mare rattled off consecutive wins in the Monrovia (gr. IIIT), Buena Vista (gr. IIT), Santa Ana (gr. IIT), and Santa Barbara (gr. IIT) Handicaps -- at distances from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles. This will be her third try at nine furlongs and her first since the Santa Ana win March 21.
This will also be Tuscan Evening's first grade I appearance since she finished second to Ventura in Hollywood's Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) Nov. 28, losing by 1 3/4 lengths in her final race of the 2009 campaign. It is her only defeat in four starts on the Hollywood Park turf that includes a victory in the Royal Heroine Mile Stakes (gr. IIT) last July.
Capable of winning on the lead, as she did in the Santa Ana and the 10-furlong Santa Barbara, or from just off the pace, as she has done in most of her other wins, Tuscan Evening has a 10-4-5 lifetime mark in 25 starts and earnings of $899,408. She will have the services of Rafael Bejarano once again. They will break from post 4 with 123 pounds.
If Tuscan Evening is to accomplish Hollendorfer's goal here, she is going to have to deal with the late charge of Forever Together.
Trained by Jonathan Sheppard for Augustin Stable, the 6-year-old gray daughter of Belong To Me and the Relaunch mare Constant Companion has won nine of 21 and banked $2,842,639. Breaking immediately to the inside of Tuscan Evening, she will also carry 123 while attempting to end a four-race losing streak.
Forever Together is making her Hollywood Park debut but she is no stranger to California. In 2008, she won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita en route to post-season honors, then was third in the same event behind Midday and Pure Clan last fall in Arcadia.
Forever Together will be ridden for the first time by Rajiv Maragh. He spells an ailing Julien Leparoux, the 2009 Eclipse Award-winning rider who is sidelined with a back injury. Forever Together's last win came in the Diana Stakes (gr. IT) for her second in a row in the prestigious race last Aug. 1 at Saratoga.
Jockey Alex Solis and trainer Paddy Gallagher, who combined to win the 2009 Gamely with Magical Fantasy, are hoping for a back-to-back with General Consensus. If successful, they would become the first jockey-trainer combination to win the Gamely in consecutive years.
Now based in Kentucky, Solis has already returned to Hollywood Park once this meet to win a stakes, taking the Railbird (gr. III) with Tanda on May 9.
Owned by Sierra Farm, General Consensus, a 5-year-old Giant's Causeway mare, was second, one length behind Tuscan Evening, in the Santa Barbara on April 17. She has won four of 16 and earned $243,494.
Gotta Have Her, a 6-year-old mare who has taken eight of 25 starts and banked $882,608 for Green Lantern Stables and trainer Jenine Sahadi, is best known as a hillside turf course specialist at Santa Anita. But she also won Del Mar's Palomar Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 1/16 miles during a powerful 2009 campaign in which she was 4-4-1 in nine starts and earned nearly $600,000.
She has raced once since finishing second to males in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint last fall, running third in the Las Cienegas Handicap (gr. IIIT) April 11.
A filly worthy of consideration is Well Monied. Owned by C.T. Grether Inc. and trained by Howard Zucker, the 4-year-old daughter of Maria's Mon has won two of three on the Hollywood Park turf, including last year's Honeymoon (gr. IIT) as the heavy favorite. She also ran second to Gozzip Girl in Hollywood's American Oaks (gr. IT) and third in the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) last August.
In her only start since, Well Monied won a high-priced allowance over one mile at Santa Anita April 4. Overall, she is 4-for-9 with earnings of $371,300.
The lightly raced Medaglia d'Amour has won three in a row on turf after finishing eighth of 10 in her career debut last July 31 on the Polytrack at Del Mar.
Trained by Ben Cecil for his wife, Kristina, and Zillah Reddam, the 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro was successful in her first foray into graded company, winning the Wilshire Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park on May 1. Bred in Kentucky by the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust, Medaglia d’Amour has earned $116,200. The Gamely will be her first attempt beyond one mile.
Completing the cast are grade II winner Cat by the Tale, who was second to Tuscan Evening in the Santa Ana and the runner-up to Medaglia d’Amour in the Wilshire, and Princess Haya, fifth in the Wilshire in her California debut for owner/breeder Eileen Hartis and trainer Carl O’Callaghan. Princess Haya won the Canadian Stakes (Can-IIT) at Woodbine in September and finished third in the E.P. Taylor Stakes (Can-IT) a month later.
$250,000 Gamely Stakes (gr. IT, Race 9, 5:05p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Gotta Have Her (KY), T Baze, 119, J Sahadi
2. Medaglia d'Amour (KY), J Rosario, 117, B D Cecil
3. Forever Together (KY), R Maragh, 123, J E Sheppard
4. Tuscan Evening (IRE), R Bejarano, 123, J Hollendorfer
5. Well Monied (KY), M E Smith, 119, H L Zucker
6. General Consensus (KY), A O Solis, 117, P Gallagher
7. Princess Haya (TX),J Talamo, 123, C O'Callaghan
8. Cat by the Tale (KY), M Garcia, 119, N D Drysdale
Blinkers On: Princess Haya