Tuscan Evening had the pacesetting Patricia's Gem in her sights all the way, finally edging past her in the final 50 yards and winning a sprint to the wire by a nose in the $250,000 Royal Heroine Mile (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) on the Hollywood Park turf July 11.
Ridden to victory by Rafael Bejarano, the slight favorite Tuscan Evening recorded her first graded win in the Royal Heroine, which was known as the CashCall Mile for the previous three years.
The 4-year-old Irish-bred filly by Oasis Dream has been uncanny for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in Southern California, winning five of six starts since she was transferred from the United Kingdom by owner William de Burgh.She completed the distance in an outstanding time of 1:33.71 on a firm course.
"It's hard on the trainer, but maybe it's easier on her," Hollendorfer said of the close finish.
Patricia's Gem, on a three-race winning streak for trainer Richard Mandella, took the early lead for Victor Espinoza as Tuscan Evening and Zardana tracked in second and third, respectivley. Patricia's Gem led by a comfortable 1 1/2 lengths through fractions of :23.82, :47.36 and 1:10.83.
Tuscan Evening closed in on the leader leaving the final turn on the outside, reached even terms and got a short lead in deep stretch, winning under steady urging. Patricia's Gem, the narrow second choice in the field of eight, fought back gamely at the rail and came up just short.
"In the end my filly was kind of lugging in," said Bejarano, who teamed with Tuscan Evening to win the one-mile Redondo Beach Handicap in a similar time June 6. "I tried to keep her clear of the other filly, but it was really hard to go by."
Gotta Have Her, who challenged in the stretch but could not catch the leaders, settled for third while 1 3/4 lengths back. She edged Visit for the show spot by a neck. Lemon Chiffon, Zardana, Meydan Princess, and Taste's Sis followed.
Tuscan Evening had set the pace in all of her other American races, so Hollendorfer was pleased to see her come from slightly off the lead.
"I think that shows another dimension," he said. "Now we don't have to have a horse that's just a speed horse that has to have the lead. She showed another dimension today and I think she can get some more ground."
He said he is considering the 1 3/16-mile Beverly D (gr. IT) Aug. 8 at Arlington Park for Tuscan Evening's next start.
Tuscan Evening had failed to win in 11 starts in Great Britain and Ireland while facing top company. She ran in the Irish One Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) as a maiden in May 2008 and just missed by a head to Halfway to Heaven at odds of 66-1.
It has been a different story in the U.S. for the bay filly who improved her lifetime mark to 5-3-4 in 17 starts. Her only American loss came in a third-place finish in the Las Cienegas Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Santa Anita hillside April 12.
She earned $150,000 for the victory, pushing her career total to $377,408.
Hascombe and Valiant Studs bred the winner from the British mare The Faraway Tree, by Suave Dancer.
Tuscan Evening carried 117 pounds and paid $7.20, $3.80, and $2.80. Patricia's Gem, making her stakes debut, returned $4.20 and $3. Gotta Have Her was $2.60 to show.