It's not the race they are aiming at with Tuscan Evening, but for Team Hollendorfer, the $100,000 Monrovia Handicap (gr. IIIT) Jan. 3 at Santa Anita appears to be the best way to get there.
With an eye on getting the 5-year-old mare prepared for a grade I race in the seven-furlong Santa Monica Handicap Jan. 30, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer had the option of using the Monrovia, at 6 1/2 furlongs over Santa Anita's hillside turf course, or the 1 1/8-mile San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT) a day earlier.
“Our goal is to try and get a Grade I (win), and we also want to try her on the main track, so we targeted the Santa Monica," said Dan Ward, Hollendorfer's Southern California assistant. “But she’s training too good to wait until then. It was either the San Gorgonio at a mile and an eighth, and then dropping back to seven eighths of the Santa Monica, or the Monrovia and then the Santa Monica. The Monrovia seems to fit the schedule better.”
Tuscan Evening was assigned top weight of 121 pounds for the Monrovia, where she will be cutting back in distance while facing 10 older fillies and mares. Tuscan Evening won the one-mile Las Palmas (gr. IIT) during the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita, and is coming off a second-place finish to Ventura in the Matriarch (gr. IT), also at one mile, at Hollywood Park Nov. 28. In her last start on the hillside course, she ran third in the Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap (gr. IIIT) Oct. 17, defeated by Gotta Have Her and Monrovia foe Pasar Silbano.
Owned by William de Burgh,Tuscan Evening has never raced on anything but turf in her career. But the Irish-bred daughter of Oasis Dream has been a hard knocker since transferring to Southern California for the 2009 season, winning six of 10 starts. She has been effective on the downhill turf course as well, winning twice and finishing third twice in four starts. Before coming to the United States, she ran 11 times in Ireland and England without winning.
Tuscan Evening, who will break from post 8 with regular pilot Rafael Bejarano aboard, has earned $569,408 while compiling a career mark of 6-4-5 mark in 21 races.
Trainer Jim Cassidy, who won two stakes races the first two days of the week-old Santa Anita meet, hopes to continue his hot streak with Pasar Silbano, who has not been out since her runner-up effort in the Maddy.
“She finished eighth in the Senorita at a mile early in May and she had some foot problems after that race," Cassidy said. “Then I ran her back in the Maddy at Oak Tree in October when she finished second to a nice filly (Gotta Have Her). I tried to run her at Hollywood, but there was never a race for her, so we’ll try ‘em again here.”
The Irish-bred Pasar Silbano has a 5-1-2 record from 11 starts, with earnings of $289,804 for owner Three Chimneys Racing. David Flores has the mount on the 4-year-old filly. They break from post 6.
Also coming out of the Maddy is Queen Ofthe Catsle, who turned in her worst race of an otherwise consistent career when she was eighth. Trainer Howard Zucker drew a line through that race, pronouncing the 6-year-old mare fit and ready for a rebound in the Monrovia.
“She just bounced,” Zucker said. “There was no place else I could run her for two and half months, so I stuck her in. But we had just come back from Philadelphia on a really hard trip and she had run one of the best races in her life.”
That was in the Turf Amazon Handicap on a yielding turf course at Philadelphia Park Sept. 26. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Tale of the Cat , owned by C.T. Grether, was beaten a head after a lengthy stretch duel.
“She was acting fine, so we went ahead and ran (in the Maddy), but we knew there was a chance she might bounce off of that race,” Zucker said. “Now, she’s sharp and fresh and ready to roll.”
Ron Beegle's Lemon Chiffon cuts back in distance for trainer Sean McCarthy following a third-place finish as the favorite in Churchill Downs’ Cardinal Handicap (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/8 miles on grass in her last start on Nov. 21. The 7-year-old mare was also competitive in Oak Tree's 10-furlong Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT), finishing fourth, two lengths behind the victorious Magical Fantasy, prior to the Cardinal.
Her last win came in an allowance race over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course April 9 and she has won two of three starts over the unique layout. Tyler Baze will be aboard the Lemon Drop Kid mare for the first time.
$100,000 Monrovia Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 7, 3:36 p.m.), F & M, 4 & Up, About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Czechers (KY), C Sutherland, 115, M Glatt
2. Queen Ofthe Catsle (KY), M E Smith, 119, H L Zucker
3. Reba Is Tops (WA), J Talamo, 117, M Glatt
4. Royal Taat (NZ), J Rosario, 115, J W Sadler
5. Hermione's Magic (GB), A O Solis, 114, K Walsh
6. Pasar Silbano (IRE), D R Flores, 115, J M Cassidy
7. Lindelaan (KY), J Valdivia, Jr., 116, C Clement
8. Tuscan Evening (IRE), R Bejarano, 121, J Hollendorfer
9. Lemon Chiffon (KY), T Baze, 118, S McCarthy
10. Empressive Lady (KY), V Espinoza, 114, J Mullins
11. Lucky Copy (KY), G K Gomez, 115, T A Pletcher