Tuscan Evening, an impressive winner over Santa Anita's hillside turf course in both of her American starts, can provide jockey Garrett Gomez with a record-tying stakes mark at the meet April 12 if she can win the $100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap (gr. IIIT).
Gomez, the nation’s leading jockey in purse earnings the last three years and a back-to-back Eclipse Award winner, can equal a Santa Anita record for most stakes victories by a jockey in a single season, which is 19.
The 37-year-old Gomez, who left Santa Anita to ride full-time at the Keeneland meeting when it opened April 3, returns to handle the enigmatic 4-year-old Irish-bred filly Tuscan Evening in the hillside turf event at about 6 1/2 furlongs for older fillies and mares. There are nine entered.
Winless in 11 British Isle starts, Tuscan Evening has performed exceptionally well for Gomez in her two starts in this country. She won easily on both occasions, first breaking her maiden by five lengths Jan. 22, and then capturing an entry-level allowance by 3 3/4 lengths as the 1-2 favorite Feb. 28. This will be the U.S. stakes debut for Tuscan Evening, who races for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and owner William de Burgh.
Tuscan Evening had been competing against formidable opposition before transferring to the U.S. She lost by a head to Halfway to Heaven in last May’s Boylesport.com Irish One Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) at The Curragh, only to be disqualified from second to fourth for causing stretch interference. Her odds were 66-1. She was twice group-placed before that.
If successful, Gomez will tie the Santa Anita stakes record shared by Laffit Pincay Jr. (1980-81) and Corey Nakatani (1996-97). One day after the Keeneland opening, Gomez returned to move within one of the mark by riding Pioneerof the Nile to victory in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). He lost, however, with three other stakes mounts that day. According to agent Ron Anderson, the Las Cienegas will mark Gomez’s final appearance at the meet, which closes one week later.
Dawn After Dawn, a 5-year-old mare trained by John Sadler for Ike and Dawn Thrash, is the most accomplished runner in the field with earnings of $516,283 from a 6-3-3 record in 22 starts. She will carry high weight of 118 pounds. Joel Rosario will be aboard the Florida-bred who is coming off back-to-back stakes victories.
The daughter of Successful Appeal took the Wishing Well Handicap over Santa Anita’s downhill layout Jan. 31, followed by the Moscow Burning at one mile on turf March 13. Her career accomplishments include a victory in last year’s La Canada Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita and a second to Nashoba’s Key in the Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. I).
Gotta Have Her, weighted at 117, has been consistent for trainer Jenine Sahadi and Green Lantern Stables while posting a 5-4-2 record in 17 starts for earnings of $336,023. She has been victorious in two starts while sprinting over the downhill course, including her most recent start in a top-level allowance race March 6. Tyler Baze will ride the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Royal Academy.
Bel Air Sizzle shortens up after losing the 1 1/8-mile Santa Ana Handicap (gr. IIT) by a head to Belmont Cat March 22, a race in which the Unusual Heat filly broke tardily but finished with a flourish to just miss. Barry Abrams trains Bel Air Sizzle, who has earned $457,366 while winning five of 19 starts for Madeline Auerbach and partners.
Gorgeous Goose comes off a late-running victory over an optional claiming allowance field March 8 in her first start of the year. The stakes winning 4-year-old daughter of Mongoose is trained by Mike Puype.
$100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 7, 3:36 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Trouble Maker (MD), 114, Victor Espinoza
2. Bel Air Sizzle (CA), 116, Corey Nakatani
3. Tuscan Evening (IRE), 113, Garrett Gomez
4. Reba Is Tops (WA), 117, Joseph Talamo
5. Dawn After Dawn (FL), 118, Joel Rosario
6. Gorgeous Goose (FL), 115, Rafael Bejarano
7. Gotta Have Her (KY), 117, Tyler Baze
8. Star of Whitney (KY), 116, Aaron Gryder
9. Macadamia (KY), 113, Jose Valdivia Jr.