08/19/2010 12:57PM

Evening Jewel goes for three in a row in Del Mar Oaks

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Benoit & Associates
Evening Jewel goes for her third consecutive graded stakes victory in Saturday's Del Mar Oaks.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Evening Jewel was a restless filly at trainer Jim Cassidy’s stable earlier this week, just days before Saturday’s $300,000 Del Mar Oaks.

Whatever Cassidy and his staff tried, Evening Jewel would not settle.

“She’s tearing the barn down,” Cassidy said. “I put her in a pen to see if that would help. She’s bucking and squealing.”

This has happened before with Evening Jewel, a winner of 5 of 11 starts and $696,943. When she became antsy in late April, she followed that behavior with one of her best races, finishing a nose behind Blind Luck in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.

Her most recent start, a win in the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap at Del Mar on July 25, does not seem to have affected her enthusiasm, Cassidy said.

“She came out of the race and I thought it would knock her out,” Cassidy said. “Apparently, it hasn’t.

“I’ve never had one that tries as hard. I’ve had some that had more talent.”

Owned by Tom and Marilyn Braly, Evening Jewel won the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland in advance of the Kentucky Oaks, and has won her last two starts – the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap at Hollywood Park on May 31 and the San Clemente.

The streak of success will make her the favorite in a 10-filly Del Mar Oaks, which includes Harmonious, Antares World, and Weekend Magic, the first three finishers of the Grade 1 American Oaks on July 3; Perfect Shirl, who won the Grade 2 Lake George Stakes at Saratoga on July 28; and two European stakes winners – Berg Bahn and Distinctive.

Harmonious is trained by John Shirreffs, and is unbeaten in three starts on turf. The American Oaks over 1 1/4 miles on turf was her stakes debut, and an excellent performance. Owned by Marty Wygod and his family, Harmonious was fourth in a field of seven on the backstretch, moved within a length of the lead on the final turn, and passed Antares World to win by 1 1/4 lengths.

Asked how much improvement can be expected from Harmonious, Shirreffs said, “Who knows?”

With only four starts, Harmonious is the most lightly raced filly in the field. One veteran is Crisp, who makes her eighth start of the year in the Del Mar Oaks. All her races this year have been stakes, including a wins in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks and Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes on the synthetic main track at Santa Anita during the winter.

On turf, Crisp has had mixed form this summer, finishing second in the Le Cle Stakes at Hollywood Park and a troubled fourth in the San Clemente Handicap, where she was beaten 1 1/2 lengths. Both races were at one mile.

Trainer John Sadler said the distance of the Del Mar Oaks works in favor of Crisp.

“She has a lot of talent and she’s better at a mile and an eighth,” Sadler said. “I think she’ll be one of the tough horses in there.”

Crisp is a closer who will be in pursuit of expected early leader Antares World. It Tiz, who won the Le Cle Stakes on July 1, is likely to be near the front. She returned to finish sixth, beaten 1 3/4 lengths, behind Evening Jewel in the San Clemente after a wide trip.

The American Oaks will be the longest race of It Tiz’s career.

“I’m really interested to see if that extra ground will help,” trainer Mark Glatt said