A winner of six of 10 starts in 2009, Tuscan Evening got the New Year off to a great start when she captured the $100,000 Monrovia Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) as the favorite on the turf Jan. 3 at Santa Anita.
William de Burgh's Irish-bred 5-year-old mare successfully cut back from a mile distance to win the 6 1/2-furlong Monrovia over the hillside course by one length. Late-running 47-1 shot Czechers pipped 41-1 Empressive Lady by a neck for second. The winning time was a strong 1:12.56 over firm going.
The 121-pound top weight in the field of 11 older fillies and mares, Tuscan Evening was sent off at odds of 3-2 and paid $5, $3.40, and $2.80. Czechers, who was scratched from the San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT) a day earlier by trainer Mark Glatt, returned $30.20 and $13.80 and rounded out a $210.20 exacta. Empressive Lady was $15.20 to show. A $1 trifecta was worth $2,358.70, while the superfecta with second choice Pasar Silbano finishing fourth paid $14,356.
Winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer hopes to get a grade I victory for Tuscan Evening at the meet and said after the race that he is considering the Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I) at seven furlongs on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride main track Jan. 30. After establishing herself as one of Southern California's top females on turf last fall, Tuscan Evening would be making her first start on anything but grass in the Santa Monica.
“It was an ideal trip," Hollendorfer said of the Monrovia. "She sat behind horses and won willingly.”
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Tuscan Evening was well-spotted in third on the outside as Pasar Silbano set a swift early pace with outsider Lucky Copy tracking in second. The quarter-mile splits coming down the hill were :21.24 and :43.25. Tuscan Evening bid between horses to get the lead from Pasar Silbano past mid-stretch, then had to dig down as several late-runners closed in.
Tuscan Evening, under urging from Bejarano, inched away from Empressive Lady and Victor Espinoza in deep stretch to get the victory in game fashion, with Czechers, ridden by Chantal Sutherland, charging late to just get the place spot. Empressive Lady held third by three-quarters of a length over Pasar Silbano.
“She’s the best filly I’ve got right now on the turf, she loves it," Bejarano said. "I was very confident, even though I could see (Pasar Silbano) made an easy lead. When you ride the best horse, you can do anything you want.”
Coming off a runner-up finish to top turf mare Ventura in Hollywood Park's one-mile Matriarch (gr. IT) Nov. 28, Tuscan Evening has been nothing short of sensational for a runner who came to Southern California at the start of last season winless in her 11 starts in the United Kingdom. She has now won seven of 11 U.S. starts with one second and two thirds with earnings of $546,555.
The daughter of Oasis Dream--The Faraway Tree (by Suave Dancer) captured both the Royal Heroine Mile (gr. IIT) at Hollywood and Oak Tree's one-mile Las Palmas Handicap (gr. IIT) last year. She also has won three of five starts on the hillside course with two thirds.
Bred by Hascombe and Valiant Studs, Tuscan Evening's career mark stands at 7-4-5 in 22 races and she has banked $629,408.
Royal Taat finished fifth, followed by Hermione's Magic, Reba Is Tops, Lemon Chiffon, Queen Ofthe Catsle, Lindelaan, and Lucky Copy.