Tuscan Evening, bidding for her ninth win in 13 starts since arriving in the United States last year, faces seven rivals as the 123-pound high weight in the $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Santa Anita turf course March 21.
The 5-year-old Irish-bred mare is spotting her opponents from six to 10 pounds each as she goes for her third straight graded stakes win in 2010. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer scratched Tuscan Evening from the Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap (gr. IT), where she was prepared to face males for the first time in this country, when she drew the far outside post in a field of 11 two weeks ago.
With regular rider Rafael Bejarano aboard, Tuscan Evening drew a more favorable post 3 for the Santa Ana, a 1 1/8-mile event for older fillies and mares. The Santa Ana is the eighth race on the program with a probable post of 4:07 p.m. PDT.
Tuscan Evening will face a field that includes last year's Santa Ana winner Belmont Cat, San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT) victress Cat by the Tale, and the returning April Pride, who captured Oak Tree's Harold C. Ramser Handicap (gr. IIIT) in her last start Oct. 24.
If Tuscan Evening were to prevail in the Santa Ana, she would do so under the most weight she has ever carried to victory and do it at a distance that is slightly beyond her comfort zone of one mile.
“I would like to carry less, but we’ll go with what we’ve got,” said Hollendorfer, who conditions Tuscan Evening for owner William de Burgh. “She’s training real well.”
Since winning the Buena Vista Handicap (gr. IIT) under 122 pounds at one mile on turf Feb. 15, Tuscan Evening shows three recorded works, including a bullet :47 for four furlongs on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride Feb. 23. She drilled six furlongs over the surface in 1:12 1/5 on March 8.
The daughter of Oasis Dream has been remarkably consistent since arriving late in 2008 from Ireland, where she carried as much as 126 pounds but was winless in 12 starts. She has been worse than third only once since arriving in Southern California, finishing eighth in the nine-furlong John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT) at Del Mar last August. Her career mark stands at 8-4-5 in 23 races with earnings of $719,408.
“She was cut out to be a nice filly, but she has been somewhat of a surprise,” Hollendorfer said. “We’re very happy with what she’s accomplished so far and hope to keep it going Sunday.”
Belmont Cat, a 6-year-old New Zealand-bred mare trained by John Sadler for Doubledown Stables, has raced just twice since scoring her biggest win in the 2009 Santa Ana by a head over Bel Air Sizzle as a 9-1 shot. Following a fifth-place finish in the Wilshire Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park in May, she went to the sidelines.
The daughter of Felix the Cat returned in the one-mile Honey Fox Stakes (gr. IIIT) Feb. 20 at Gulfstream Park, but was no factor while running 12th. Tyler Baze will take the reins for the first time.
Matthew Cloros' 5-year-old Cat by the Tale was an impressive 2 1/2-length winner over Santa Ana entrant Treat Gently in the Jan. 2 San Gorgonio. She was no match for Tuscan Evening when fourth in the Buena Vista, however, beaten by more than three lengths. That spoiled a streak of seven consecutive in-the-money performances for the Neil Drysdale-trained daughter of Tale of the Cat dating back to her arrival in the U.S. from Ireland early last year.
Also coming out of the Buena Vista is the runner-up Eissoai, who made a bid at the rail before finishing 2 1/4 lengths behind Tuscan Evening. Humberto Ascanio trains the 6-year-old Brazilian-bred mare seeking her first U.S. stakes win for owner Patricia Bozano.
Treat Gently, trained by Bll Mott for Juddmonte Farms, has not been postward since the San Gorgonio. The 5-year-old mare captured a French group II stakes at Saint-Cloud in June 2008 and has won once in three starts since transferring to the U.S. last spring.
Forging Oaks Farm's British-bred April Pride worked three furlongs in :36.20 March 17, helping trainer James Cassidy's decision to enter her in the Santa Ana. The 4-year-old Falbrav filly won a pair of stakes in 2009.
Chasin Dreams and General Consensus seek their first stakes victories.
$150,000 Santa Ana Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Eissoai (BRZ), M C Baze, 113, H Ascanio
2. General Consensus (KY), A O Solis, 115, P Gallagher
3. Tuscan Evening (IRE), R Bejarano, 123, J Hollendorfer
4. Chasin Dreams (KY), D Sorenson, 113, B L Jackson
5. Treat Gently (GB), G K Gomez, 116, W I Mott
6. Belmont Cat (NZ), T Baze, 115, J W Sadler
7. April Pride (GB), D R Flores, 117, J M Cassidy
8. Cat by the Tale (KY), J Rosario, 117, N D Drysdale