02/24/2011 1:57PM

Evening Jewel a go on turf or dirt in Valentine Dancer Handicap


ARCADIA, Calif. – The concern surrounding Evening Jewel’s interest in racing and training that was prevalent in January has given way to optimism over her condition as February draws to a close.

On Saturday at Santa Anita, Evening Jewel will be favored to win her second stakes of the year in the $100,000 Valentine Dancer Handicap for statebred females, which is scheduled for a mile on turf. With wet weather forecast, the race could be shifted to the main track, but Evening Jewel will start regardless, trainer Jim Cassidy said.

He is just delighted that the hints of dullness she showed earlier this year are gone.

In the weeks before the Sunshine Millions Distaff on Jan. 29, Cassidy feared Evening Jewel had tailed off from her excellent 3-year-old campaign of 2010 that included four graded stakes wins, including two Grade 1 victories. He even warned owner Marilyn Braly of a potential loss.

“I told Marilyn, ‘Don’t be disappointed,’ ” Cassidy recalled. “ ‘Sometimes they don’t show up at 4.’ ”

In the days before the race, the opposite occurred.

“The more I worked with her, the better she got,” Cassidy said.

Evening Jewel won the Sunshine Millions Distaff by a half-length, closing from sixth on the final turn. She was entered for the Buena Vista Handicap last Monday, but Cassidy scratched her in favor of the Valentine Dancer after Evening Jewel drew a wide post and would have a raced on a turf course that sustained wet rain in preceding days.

Evening Jewel breaks from post 2 in a field of 11 in the Valentine Dancer. Cassidy said he will run Evening Jewel on the main track, if necessary.

The wet weather could reduce the field. If the race is transferred to the main track, Antares World will not start, trainer Steve Specht said.

The same goes for Unzip Me, who won the Grade 3 Monrovia Stakes on the hillside turf course Jan. 2, her sixth stakes win in the last year.

“We’re trying to figure out what to do,” trainer Marty Jones said.

Trainer Eric Kruljac said he will make a raceday decision on La Nez, depending on the condition of the track. “We’ll see how it is, and I’ll advise the owners,” he said.

On either surface, Ultra Blend is a threat. A three-time stakes winner last year, Ultra Blend was a fast-closing third in the Sunshine Millions Distaff.