Prohibitive choice Tuscan Evening picked up her fourth graded stakes win of the Santa Anita season when she led all the way in defeating three rivals in the $147,000 Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) April 17.
The field in the 1 1/4-mile turf event for older fillies and mares was reduced to four by trainer scratches of Cat by the Tale and Medaglia d'Amour. Those defections effectively eliminated any early pace pressure on Tuscan Evening, who could not have had an easier time in her first try at the distance.
During the course of the Santa Anita stand, Tuscan Evening has won on the hillside turf course at about 6 1/2 furlongs, at one mile, 1 1/8 miles, and now at 10 furlongs for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and owner William de Burgh.
With regular rider Rafael Bejarano aboard, 5-year-old Tuscan Evening broke outward while taking the lead soon out of the gate from Eclair de Lune. The Irish-bred mare opened up by nearly two lengths while clicking off an easy opening quarter-mile of :24.56. She maintained an advantage of about one length over Restless Soul, running a half-mile in :49.02 and six furlongs in a relaxed 1:13.77.
On the turn for home, Restless Soul, the longest shot on the board ridden by Brice Blanc, attempted to close in but Tuscan Evening edged away again to open up by more than two lengths in the stretch. The late-running General Consensus, saving ground early, moved into contention on the turn for Alex Solis and took over second in the lane. She was drawing nearer to Tuscan Evening while approaching the wire but never seriously threatened the winner, who tallied by a measured one length under good handling from Bejarano.
The final time was 2:00.22 over firm going.
Bejarano, the runaway leading rider at the Santa Anita meet on the final weekend, said: "This is a very special day. My mother is here from Peru and to have this filly win four times at longer distances, it is unbelievable. She keeps improving every time. She relaxed so well the whole race and I never hit her today. She was full of run at the finish.”
Tuscan Evening earned her 10th lifetime win in 13 starts since arriving in the United States in 2009, including six victories in eight tries on the Santa Anita grass. She came to the U.S. winless in 11 starts while facing tough competition in Ireland. The bay earned $90,000 for the Santa Barbara win, boosting her lifetime bankroll to $899,408.
"She’s something," said Hollendorfer. "I give her all the credit. She relaxed real nice, and when Rafael asked her, she had enough left. We were thrilled and we’re very fortunate. Winning these four races at different distances lets us consider a lot more things, but we’ll take a hard look at the Gamely (gr. IT)."
The $250,000 Gamely Handicap, at nine furlongs May 29 at Hollywood Park, would give Tuscan Evening her third try at a grade i victory.
By Oasis Dream out of the Suave Dancer mare The Faraway Tree, the winner was bred in Ireland by Hascombe and Valiant Studs.
Tuscan Evening was coming off a 1 1/4-length win in the Santa Ana Handicap (gr. IIT) March 21. She has not been beaten since running second by one length to Ventura in the one-mile Matriarch (gr. IT) at Holywood Park Nov. 28.
Under high weight of 124 pounds, Tuscan Evening spotted her Santa Barbara rivals between eight and 10 pounds and paid $2.60 and $2.10. General Consensus returned $2.80. It was 4 3/4 lengths back to Restless Soul, with the German-bred filly Eclair de Lune a half-length farther back.