Favored Evening Jewel swept to victory in the $150,000 San Clemente Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) July 25, giving trainer James Cassidy and jockey Victor Espinoza a sweep of the graded turf stakes on the opening weekend of the 2010 Del Mar opening weekend.
A day earlier, The Usual Q. T. was victorious for Cassidy and Espinoza as the favorite in the Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT).
"We couldn't duplicate it (such a weekend)," exclaimed Cassidy on TVG immediately after Evening Jewel registered a three-quarters of a length win in the San Clemente. "This is unbelieveble."
The versatile Evening Jewel appears comfortable on any surface and has shown the ability to win on the front end as well as rate. In fact, she is a couple of nose defeats to Blind Luck in the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) and the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) from being a leading contender for the this year's Eclipse Award for 3-year-old fillies. The California-bred daughter of Northern Afleet --Jewel of the Night, by Giant's Causeway has three wins, including a grade I triumph in the Ashland Stakes, and three seconds in six starts this year.
Evening Jewel, who took the lead nearing the eighth pole, completed the one-mile event for 3-year-old fillies in 1:35.36 over a firm course while carrying top weight of 123 pounds.
Espinoza kept Evening Jewel on the outside of Del Mar's tight turf course while stalking in fourth position as outsider Southern Fireball, pushed along by Crisis of Spirit and recent Hollywood Oaks (gr. II) winner Switch, posted modest quarter-mile splits of :23.11, :47.89 and 1:12.22.
Evening Jewel advanced off the turn three wide to get a narrow advantage approaching mid-stretch. She finished strongly under urging from Espinoza to keep the closers City to City and Weekend Magic at bay in the final furlong.
City to City, ridden by Rafael Bejarano at 9-1 odds, outlasted the 27-1 shot Weekend Magic, with Alonso Quinonez aboard, by a head for second. Crisp, who clipped heels and nearly went down when impeded by a rank Fortunia on the first turn, recovered to finish a gallant fourth, three parts of a length behind Weekend Magic.
Owned by Tom and Marilyn Braly, Evening Jewel improved her career mark to 5-5-0 in 11 lifetime races, her only out-of-the-money performance coming in a sixth-place showing in her maiden debut on Del Mar's main track last August. The bay filly is two-for-two on turf, coming off a head victory over Cozi Rosie in the Honeymoon Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Hollywood lawn May 31.
Betty and Larry Mabee bred Evening Jewel, an $8,000 buy as a yearling at Keeneland in September 2008. She has earned $696,943 with the winner's purse of $90,000 from the San Clemente.
The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained City To City, a game second from off the pace, won the Providencia Stakes (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita in April and was most recently fifth in the 10-furlong American Oaks (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park July 3. Weekend Magic, also game in defeat for owner/trainer Myung Kwon Chu, ran third in the American Oaks in her turf debut last time out.
Sent off at odds of 8-5, Evening Jewel paid $5.40, $3.20 and $3.60 while topping a $44.60 exacta. City to City, in the money in seven of eight turf starts in 2007 with three victories, returned $7.20 and $5.40. The improving Weekend Magic was $10 to show.
Crisp was followed by her John Sadler-trained stablemate Switch. Then came It Tiz, Conniption, Crisis of Spirit, Southern Fireball and Fortunia. Got an Itch and Our Georgia, who were on the also-eligible list, and Repo scratched.