The versatile Tuscan Evening (pictured) and her connections were prepared for anything in Saturday's Grade 1 $250,000 Gamely at Hollywood Park. Although she had won her last two races in wire to wire fashion, she reverted to stalking tactics that were successful for her in the past in winning her first Grade 1 race and fifth straight graded stakes race.
"We just decided that if somebody did something different that was unexpected that we would adjust and he (jockey Rafael Bejarano) did a perfect job of adjusting to (trainer Neil) Drysdale’s horse being on the lead," said Tuscan Evening's trainer Jerry Hollendorfer regarding Cat by the Tale being sent for the early lead.
After putting Cat by the Tale away, Tuscan Evening held off the hard charging 2008 female turf champion Forever Together by half a length. Forever Together shipped in from the East Coast for trainer Jonathan Sheppard to make her first start at Hollywood Park.
"When they were turning for home I thought that Rafael had a lot of horse left," said Hollendorfer, who also won last month’s Kentucky Oaks with Blind Luck. "After the race he told me that he indeed did have a lot of horse left. When I was watching it, I was confident that she was going to finish and I saw Jonathan’s horse finishing also, but she wasn’t coming quite hard enough."
What makes Tuscan Evening's run even more impressive is the fact that she has not had a layoff since last summer, a span that includes eight races. Most elite horses, and horses in general for that matter in this day and age, get some time off after a few races. But, that does not seem to be in the plans for Tuscan Evening.
"This was our point race and we won that. (Owner) Will (de Burgh) and I will talk and we’ll decide how we’re going to handle the rest of the year," said the 63-year-old Hollendorfer, who is the “King” with the most wins in history for all trainers in Northern California. "I would expect that as long as she’s doing as good as she is that we’re going to be running."
As far as immediate plans, where will Tuscan Evening run were she to venture outside of California for the first time since coming to Hollendorfer from Europe last year?
"We’re going to look at the Beverly D as a race we’re going to be looking at in the future," said Hollendorfer regarding the Grade 1 race run on August 21st at Arlington Park. "What comes between now and then, I’m not sure. But, the Beverly D would be the next race that we’re going to look at in Chicago."
Other local races that Tuscan Evening could point for before the Beverly D are the Grade 3 Beverly Hills Handicap on June 26th and the Grade 2 Royal Heroine on July 3rd.
The ultimate goal for most of the top horses in the world is the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships to be run this year at Churchill Downs in November.
"Well, sure everybody wants to think that they have a horse that can be around at the end of the year," said Hollendorfer. "We certainly do with her so we just need to keep her sound and going good."
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