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TUSCAN EVENING GOES THE DISTANCE UNDER 123 POUNDS WITH CONVINCING WIRE-TO-WIRE VICTORY IN SANTA ANA HANDICAP
ARCADIA, Calif. (March 21, 2010) – Closely pursued the entire distance by Cat by the Tale, even-money choice Tuscan Evening proved her distance capability with an emphatic wire-to-wire triumph over 1 1/8 miles on turf Sunday in Santa Anita’s 43rd running of the Grade II, $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap for fillies and mares.
With leading rider Rafael Bejarano winning his fourth straight race on the program, Tuscan Evening shook off a bid by her pursuer turning for home, maintained a one length advantage through the stretch and widened to 1 ¼ lengths at the wire.
In scoring her ninth victory in her last 13 starts, the 5-year-old Irish-bred mare conceded six pounds to Cat by the Tale while becoming the first Santa Ana winner to carry 123 pounds since female turf champion Estrapade in 1985. She even overcame a pronounced stumble entering the stretch.
Tuscan Evening stopped the clock at 1:48.03 after dictating pedestrian early fractions that included a half mile in 49.78 and six furlongs in 1:36.58. When the race turned into a sprint for home nearing the far turn, the leader had ample in reserve.
Runner-up Cat by the Tale, the 4-1 third choice ridden by Joel Rosario, finished 1 ¼ lengths ahead of third-place General Consensus with Alex Solis aboard. Treat Gently, the 3-1 second choice, checked in a non-threatening seventh.
Tuscan Evening stylishly atoned for her only poor effort since joining trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s stable: an eight-place finish in the Grade I John C. Mabee Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Del Mar last summer, her only previous start at the distance.
“This mare can do anything she wants, especially at this distance,” said Bejarano. “I knew we were the speed and I was very confident in her. She stumbled a little bit at the top of the stretch and she lost her momentum for a jump or two, but she was full of run and she got going again.”
“He was careful about being on the lead,” Hollendorfer said of his rider, “and we were watching for somebody to do something else. He made the right judgment and handled the pace very well, so we’re very pleased.”
As for the nine furlongs, Hollendorfer said, “We wanted to know the answer to that question, and I think she answered it well today.”
Tuscan Evening paid $4, $2.60 and $2.20. Cat by the Tale returned $3.40 and $2.40. General Consensus paid $3.20 to show.
Owned by William Deburgh since coming to the United States in late 2008, Tuscan Evening earned $90,000 to increase her career figure to $809,408 from an overall record of 9-4-5 in 24 starts.
Remarkably, this ultra consistent mare was winless in 11 starts while racing against topflight competition in Europe. She, however, displayed her promise by placing in Group II and Group III events and earning $82,843 before crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
Following dark days on Monday and Tuesday, racing will resume at Santa Anita on Wednesday with an eight-race program that commences at 1 p.m.