Tuscan Evening tries to make it 10 in Santa Barbara
Only six fillies and mares were entered for Saturday's $150,000 Santa Barbara H. (G2) at Santa Anita, undoubtedly due to the presence of likely odds-on choice TUSCAN EVENING (Ire) (Oasis Dream [GB]), who has virtually owned the local turf course during her racing career. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee has won six times and placed third twice in eight attempts locally, and enters on a four stakes-race win streak in Arcadia, California.
The 10-furlong distance of the Santa Barbara will present a new challenge for the front-running Tuscan Evening, who seeks her 10th career win on Saturday. Though she's rarely strayed beyond a mile for most of her career, Tuscan Evening did capture the nine-furlong Santa Ana H. (G2) last time and another successful step-up in distance on Saturday could pay future dividends. For example, the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) will revert to 1 3/8 miles this year due to the configuration of the Churchill Downs turf course.
In addition to the Santa Ana, Tuscan Evening has also taken the Las Palmas H. (G2), Monrovia H. (G3) and Buena Vista H. (G2) at Santa Anita over the past six months. Her only loss during this span was a sharp second to multiple Eclipse Award finalist Ventura in the Matriarch S. (G1) across town at Hollywood Park. She will carry 124 pounds in the Santa Barbara and will spot her rivals seven to 11 pounds.
CAT BY THE TALE (Tale of the Cat) captured the one divisional race at Santa Anita over the winter Tuscan Evening did not participate in, the January 2 San Gorgonio H. (G2), but has otherwise fallen short to that rival each time they've faced each other. Cat by the Tale will get an extra pound of relief for this race, which might not be enough t shorten the 1 1/4-length gap that separated the two in the Santa Ana. Another entrant from that race, third-placer GENERAL CONSENSUS (Giant's Causeway), is also in the field Saturday.
MEDAGLIA D'AMOUR (Medaglia d'Oro) enters with just three career starts behind her, but both of her wins have come over the local turf. The Ben Cecil trainee is bred to stretch out successfully and should be rating just off the Tuscan Evening most of the way. RESTLESS SOUL (GB) (Singspiel [Ire]) and ECLAIR DE LUNE (Ger) (Marchand de Sable), who were both unplaced in their respective seasonal bows, complete the Santa Barbara field.
EVER A FRIEND (Crafty Friend), whose career highlight came in the 2008 Frank E. Kilroe Mile H. (G1), shortens up Saturday to face seven others in the $100,000 San Simeon H. (G3) at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the turf. The Mike Mitchell-trained gelding was second in the Citation H. (G1) in November, but weakened to sixth as the favorite in the March 6 renewal of the Kilroe.
MR GRUFF (Mr. Greeley), who was sidelined for 11 months following his score in the 2009 San Simeon, made a successful course-and-distance comeback on March 29 and is seemingly the one to beat under regular pilot Joel Rosario. Also figuring are Impressive Luck H. winner CHEROKEE HEAVEN (Cherokee Run) and NOBLE COURT (Doneraile Court), the Grade 2 veteran who captured last year's Joe Hernandez over this course and trip. Allowance winners VICTOR'S CRY (Street Cry [Ire]) and CANONIZE (Aldebaran) might also attract some play.
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