12/31/2010 4:57PM

Evening Jewel ready for Monrovia on turf or dirt

Tom Keyser
If Evening Jewel does not run well in the Sunshine Millions Distaff, there is a possibility she could be retired.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Preparation has not gone entirely to plan for Evening Jewel or Unzip Me, the favorites Sunday in the Grade 3 Monrovia Stakes at Santa Anita.

First it was wet, then cold, and another storm could move the race from turf to dirt. Eight fillies and mares entered the 6 1/2-furlong race; Evening Jewel and Unzip Me have not raced since third-place finishes Nov. 5-6 in the Breeders’ Cup.

Evening Jewel, third in the Filly and Mare Sprint, breezed a sharp three furlongs Thursday in 35.40 seconds, “just to get a little pump in her,” trainer Jim Cassidy said.

It worked, but Evening Jewel was feeling so good afterward she reared while walking off the track. She dumped her exercise rider, flipped, and fell to the ground. It was a scary scene for the two-time Grade 1 winner.

Fortunately she quickly scrambled to her feet, no worse.

“She scratched her hock, but it was just superficial,” Cassidy said.

With six wins and more than $1 million in earnings, Evening Jewel and jockey Victor Espinoza will be favored to win the Monrovia on either surface.

Racing officials scheduled the Monrovia as race 2, hoping to run on grass before the storm arrives. Cassidy said Evening Jewel was likely to run on either surface.

“I might have to,” he said.

Evening Jewel is using the Monrovia as a prep race for the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff on Jan. 29.

Unzip Me, third in the BC Turf Sprint, will not run if the Monrovia is taken off grass, trainer Marty Jones said.

“Maybe at some point we’ll try her on the main track . . . not now,” he said.

With a 3-for-4 record on the hill and 9-for-16 overall record, Unzip Me “missed a lot of time with the bad weather, but so has everybody,” Jones said. “She is training really well, but probably not coming up to the race as designed.”

Rafael Bejarano and Unzip Me could make an easy lead in the Monrovia. If she is scratched, 12-for-26 Reba Is Tops could be the reluctant pacesetter.

At age 7, Reba Is Tops will be retired this winter. Trainer Mark Glatt said she is most effective chasing a target but realizes the race gets easier if it is run on dirt. Reba Is Tops will run on dirt.

Other Monrovia entrants include Broken Dreams, La Nez, Lilly Fa Pootz, Candace Gold, and Gilded Gem.