TUSCAN EVENING SHORTENS UP, TOTES HIGH WEIGHT IN MONROVIA

ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 31, 2009) – After a pair of sparkling efforts in major stakes races at one mile on grass, Irish-bred Tuscan Evening reverts to a sprint distance Sunday when carrying high weight of 121 pounds in the 42nd running of the Grade III, $100,000 Monrovia Handicap for fillies and mares at 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course.

No stranger to the unique layout, Tuscan Evening will face 10 rivals in the Monrovia following a decisive victory in Oak Tree’s Grade II Las Palmas Handicap and a strong second to Ventura in Hollywood Park’s Grade I Matriarch.

The cutback in distance may appear to be ill-advised for the 5-year-old mare in that she failed to win her last two stakes attempts over the course, but Tuscan Evening has always seemed a bit unconventional.

Before coming to the United States, she ran 11 times in Ireland and England without winning. Nevertheless, the maiden competed in five Group events and lost by just a head to Halfway to Heaven in the Group I Irish 1000 Guineas at odds of 66-1 in 2008 before being disqualified from second to fourth for causing interference in the stretch.

After promptly breaking her maiden by five lengths over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course last January in her United States debut for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Tuscan Evening followed that with a 3 ½-length allowance race win over the course.

She posted a 6-1-2 record in ten races in this country in 2009 for owner William Deburgh. But in two other starts over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course, Tuscan Evening finished third as the odds-on choice in the Grade III La Cienegas Handicap in April and third in Oak Tree’s Grade III Senator Ken Maddy Handicap in October.

Rafael Bejarano, who has ridden her to three victories plus the second in the Matriarch while aboard four times, will partner Tuscan Evening on Sunday. She enters the Monrovia with an overall record of 6-4-5 in 21 starts for earnings of $589,408.

The complete field for the Monrovia Handicap, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Czechers, Chantal Sutherland, 115; Queen Of the Catsle, Mike Smith, 119; Reba Is Tops, Joseph Talamo, 117; Royal Taat, Joel Rosario, 115; Hermione’s Magic, Alex Solis, 114; Pasar Silbano, David Flores, 115; Lindelaan, Jose Valdivia Jr., 116; Tuscan Evening, Rafael Bejarano, 121; Lemon Chiffon, Tyler Baze, 118; Empressive Lady, Victor Espinoza, 114, and Lucky Copy, Garrett Gomez, 115.

Another Monrovia entrant cutting back in distance is Lemon Chiffon, third as the 7-2 favorite in Churchill Downs’ Grade III Cardinal Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on grass in her last start on Nov. 21.

The 7-year-old mare, trained by Sean McCarthy for Ron Beegle, was competitive in such longer events as Oak Tree’s Grade I Yellow Ribbon Stakes and Hollywood Park’s Grade I Gamely Stakes in 2009. Her most recent win came in an allowance race over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course last April 9. Tyler Baze will be aboard the Lemon Drop Kid mare for the first time. She has earned $282,109 from a 4-1-3 record in 15 career starts.

Irish-bred Pasar Silbano finished second, 1 ½ lengths ahead of Tuscan Evening in her last start, the Senator Ken Maddy on Oct. 17. In her only other start over the course in February, the 4-year-old Three Chimneys Racing filly captured the Grade III La Habra Stakes. David Flores rides for trainer James Cassidy. Pasar Silbano shows a career record of 5-1-2 in 11 races for earnings of $289,804.

In a supporting feature for fillies and mares, Free Flying Soul will carry high weight of 121 pounds among seven entrants in the $60,000 Kalookan Queen Handicap at 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s ProRide surface.

A lightly-raced 5-year-old mare trained by Bruce Headley for Marsha Naify, Free Flying Soul finished third behind Informed Decision and Ventura after leading much of the way in Oak Tree’s Grade I, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on Nov. 6.

“She was dead-game all the way and just kept on trying,” jockey Mike Smith said afterward. “She wasn’t near as seasoned as those other fillies, which is all the more to her credit. I thought she ran dynamite.”

Coupled with Porto Marmay in the Kalookan Queen, the entry figures to be a solid choice with Smith back aboard Free Flying Soul, who won Hollywood Park’s Winter Stakes following the Breeders’ Cup effort. She has earned $245,346 from a 4-1-2 record in nine career starts.

The complete field for Kalookan Queen, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Rainbow’s Song, Gomez, 115; a-Porto Marmay, Flores, 117; High Resolve, Russell Baze, 119; U R All That I Am, Rosario, 117; Nadeshiko, Bejarano, 117; a-Free Flying Soul, Smith, 121, and Supermodel, Solis, 116. a-entry.

The Monrovia will be contested as the seventh race on a nine-race program with the Kalookan Queen going as the third. First post is at 12:30 p.m.

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