MONROVIA WIN SETS UP TUSCAN EVENING FOR GR. I SANTA MONICA

ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan.3, 2010) – Sitting just off the early pace, Rafael Bejarano drove 3-2 favorite Tuscan Evening between competitors Sunday in midstretch of Santa Anita’s Grade III, $100,000 Monrovia Handicap and likely right into the Grade I Santa Monica Handicap on Jan. 31.

Shortening up in distance after two stellar efforts at one mile on turf, Irish-bred Tuscan Evening savored the 6 ½-furlong distance of Santa Anita’s downhill turf course with a comfortable one-length win over 47-1 longshot Czechers in the field of 11.

ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan.3, 2010) – Sitting just off the early pace, Rafael Bejarano drove 3-2 favorite Tuscan Evening between competitors Sunday in midstretch of Santa Anita’s Grade III, $100,000 Monrovia Handicap and likely right into the Grade I Santa Monica Handicap on Jan. 31.

Shortening up in distance after two stellar efforts at one mile on turf, Irish-bred Tuscan Evening savored the 6 ½-furlong distance of Santa Anita’s downhill turf course with a comfortable one-length win over 47-1 longshot Czechers in the field of 11.

The showing at least endorsed the 5-year-old mare’s distance qualifications for the $250,000 Santa Monica at seven furlongs which would mean a transition to Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface following 21 career starts strictly on turf.

Prior to Sunday’s Monrovia, Tuscan Evening’s last three victories had been achieved in stakes races at one mile on turf including a pair of Grade II events before she ran a strong second to Ventura in her previous start, Hollywood Park’s Grade I Matriarch at one mile over grass.

She sat comfortably behind the early lead of 7-2 second choice Pasar Silbano during the early stages of the 42nd Monrovia before bursting between 41-1 shot Empressive Lady and the fading Pasar Silbano in the final eighth. Empressive Lady held third after being jumped by Czechers. Pasar Silbano wound up another three-quarters of a length back in fourth. The winning time was 1:12.56.

“She’s the best filly I’ve got right now on the turf, she loves it,” Bejarano said after dismounting from the winner. “She relaxed so well today. I was very confident, even though I could see the No. 6 (Pasar Silbano) made an easy lead. When you ride the best horse, you can do anything you want.”

“It was an ideal trip,” added winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “She sat behind horses and won willingly.”

Tuscan Evening returned $5, $3.40 and $2.80 to her backers. Czechers, ridden by Chantal Sutherland, paid $30.20 and $13.80. Empressive Lady, with Victor Espinoza in the saddle, paid $15.20 to show.

The victory was worth $60,000 to owner William de Burgh. Tuscan Evening, who was winless in 11 races in England and Ireland before coming to the United States one year ago, raised her career earnings to $649,408 from an overall record of 7-4-5 in 22 starts. She had won 6 of 10 starts in 2009.

In the earlier $67,400 Kalookan Queen Handicap for fillies and mares at 6 ½ furlongs on the main track, odds-on favorite Free Flying Soul registered her fifth victory in 10 starts with a dominant 2 ¼-length victory over U R All That I Am in 1:15.02.

With Hall of Famer Mike Smith at the controls for trainer Bruce Headley, Free Flying Soul kept pressure on leader High Resolve during the early going, dispatched that rival on the far turn and won while being geared down.

U R All That I Am, with Joe Rosario in the irons, ran on for second, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Rainbow’s Song, with Garrett Gomez aboard, in the field of five. High Resolve, the 5-2 second choice, faded to fourth.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Mr. (trainer Greg) Gilchrist’s mare (High Resolve),” said Smith, “and I know she can be really tough to get by. I wanted to make sure I pressed her without using my mare too much. In Mr. Headley’s words, ‘We got to break and float,’ and that’s what we did.”

“When they’re sharp, they’re sharp,” commented Headley. “She had a good trip and another, nice easy race. She’s right on course for the Santa Monica Handicap.”

Free Flying Soul paid $3.60, $2.40 and $2.20 while U R All That I Am paid $4.60 and $3. The show price on Rainbow’s Song was $3.

A 5-year-old Quiet American mare owned by Marsha Naify, the winner was awarded purse money of $38,280, which increased her career earnings to $283,426 from a 5-1-2 mark in 10 starts.

Santa Anita will be dark on Monday and Tuesday before a five-day racing week commences on Wednesday with an eight-race program beginning at 1 p.m.

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