Tuscan Evening has taken tremendous strides in going from a maiden to a graded stakes winner in just one season, but the 4-year-old filly will now get her stiffest test yet when she faces a solid field of fillies and mares that includes multiple grade I winner Magical Fantasy in the $350,000 John C. Mabee Stakes (gr. IT).
A competitive field of 10 was drawn for the Aug. 16 Mabee, a nine-furlong contest on the Del Mar turf course. The winner of the race earns an automatic starting position into the $2 million Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT) Nov. 6 at Santa Anita. Post time is set for 5:30 p.m. PDT.
Tuscan Evening, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, had been winless in the first 11 starts of her career—all of them in Europe—before breaking her maiden Jan. 22 on Santa Anita’s grass. She then scored an allowance victory, and after finishing third by less than a length in the Las Cienegas Handicap (gr. IIIT), has reeled off three more wins in a row. The last of those was the Royal Heroine Mile (gr. IIT) July 11 at Hollywood Park when she got up by a nose as the favorite. The top four finishers from that race return in the Mabee.
Bred in Ireland by Hascombe and Valiant Studs, Tuscan Evening is by Oasis Dream, out of the Suave Dancer mare The Faraway Tree. Owned by William Deburgh, she has earned $377,408 in 17 starts. Joel Rosario will have the mount and they will break from post 1.
The 2008 Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) winner at odds of 42-1, Magical Fantasy has also taken her game to another level in her last two starts, garnering wins in the April 18 Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIT) and most recently, coming from off the pace to take the Gamely (gr. IT) by a neck at Hollywood.
Owned by David Bienstock, David Mandabach, and Charles Winner, and trained by Patrick Gallagher, Magical Fantasy has produced a 4-4-0 record from 15 starts. The 4-year-old daughter of Diesis has earned more than $600,000. Alex Solis will be in the irons as Magical Fantasy tries to become only the third reigning Del Mar Oaks queen to win the Mabee since the race went to the grass in 1970.
Patricia's Gem set the pace and dueled gamely in the stretch before giving way by just a nose to Tuscan Evening in the Royal Heroine, which was the Mineshaft filly’s debut stakes company. The Richard Mandella trainee had been perfect in three starts to begin the season, winning comfortably twice in one-mile allowance races. This will be her first attempt at two turns.
A surprise entrant in the Mabee is multiple graded stakes winner Lethal Heat, who has done her best work in sprints and comes back off just a week rest. After finishing fourth in a six-furlong allowance race July 25 at Del Mar to begin her 2009 season, trainer and co-owner Barry Abrams tried Lethal Heat in the Clement Hirsch (gr. I) on Aug. 9, and she responded with a solid third-place finish to undefeated champion Zenyatta at odds of 24-1. The 4-year-old Unusual Heat filly set the pace and led into deep stretch before being missing by three-quarters of a length on the Polytrack.
Though she has notched her biggest wins on synthetic surfaces, Lethal Heat scored the first two starts of her career on turf. Last year’s Hollywood Oaks (gr. II) winner drew post 10 and will be ridden by Mike Smith.
Another filly with a good chance is Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Visit, from the barn of Bobby Frankel. The English-bred daughter of Oasis Dream was runner-up by a neck to Magical Fantasy in the Gamely, two starts after missing by the same margin in the Santa Ana Handicap (gr. II) when third. Last out in the Royal Heroine, Visit was fourth, beaten two lengths after a late move. A two-time group III winner in England, Visit is looking for her first win in eight tries in North America, but she hit the board in four graded stakes races. Brian Blanc has the call.
Briecat, runner-up to Zenyatta in the June 27 Vanity (gr. I) at Hollywood, seeks her first victory since taking the Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) last December on the Cushion Track. The Vladimir Cerin trainee finished off the board in both tries on the Del Mar turf.