08/09/2010 3:23PM

Tuscan Evening to be subject of autopsy

Barbara D. Livingston
Tuscan Evening shown winning the Las Palmas on turf.

DEL MAR, Calif.-Tuscan Evening’s death on Sunday morning of an apparent internal injury after a workout at Del Mar came at a time when the star mare had yet to fully reach her potential, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said.

The winner of six stakes this year, Tuscan Evening was the clear leader of the female turf division in California and was being pointed for the $750,000 Beverly D Stakes at Arlington Park on Aug. 21.

“She showed some of what she could do, but she didn’t get a chance to show all that she could do,” Hollendorfer said on Sunday afternoon. “We’re pretty upset.”

Tuscan Evening collapsed while galloping out after a six-furlong workout on turf in 1:15.60, according to track clockers. Owned by Will de Burgh, Tuscan Evening, 5, won 12 of 27 starts, including nine stakes, and earned $1,138,508.

The exact cause of death was not immediately known. According to California Horse Racing Board equine medical director Dr. Rick Arthur, a necropsy will be conducted this week on Tuscan Evening at a laboratory in San Bernardino, Calif., affiliated with the University of California at Davis. Such tests often reveal the causes of sudden deaths in horses, which can sometimes be caused by a heart attack.

“More often than not, we found out a specific cause,” Arthur said of past studies.

An Irish-bred, Tuscan Evening began her career in England and Ireland where she placed in five stakes, including a second in the Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas. After she was transferred to Hollendorfer in California in late 2008, she won 12 of her next 16 starts and $1,055,655.

This year, Tuscan Evening was unbeaten in six starts, highlighted by four stakes wins at Santa Anita and a win in the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes at Hollywood Park in May. In her most recent start, she won the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap at Arlington Park on July 17.

Attendance strong

Zenyatta’s win in Saturday’s Clement Hirsch Stakes helped put Del Mar’s attendance figures in the positive for the current meeting.

Saturday’s ontrack crowd of 32,536 was the second-highest of the meeting, behind the opening day all-time record of 45,309 set on July 21.

Through Saturday, the most recent statistics available, ontrack average attendance was 19,632, up 3.7 percent, compared with the same period in 2009, according to figures released by the racetrack. Through July 31, the average ontrack attendance was down less than 1 percent.

In 2009, Zenyatta won the Clement Hirsch before an ontrack crowd of 20,335. This year, the unbeaten Zenyatta won her 18th race in the Hirsch. Last year, the Hirsch was her 12th career win. For this year’s race, the track gave away a set of pint glasses honoring Zenyatta.

Through Saturday, handle figures are down from 2009, but have improved in early August. The average ontrack handle is $2,274,140, a decline of 6.1 percent, while the all-sources handle, including satellite and account wagering sources, was $11,696,893, a decline of 6.7 percent.

Through July 31, ontrack and all-sources handle figures were down approximately 10 percent, which track officials attributed partially to a decline in races offered this year. The track is running one fewer race on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays because of concern over a lower horse population than in previous years.

Turning Top keeps climing

In four starts since early April, Turning Top has run in tougher competition in each race. Each time, she has won, including her graded stakes debut in the Grade 3 Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 26.

Sunday, Turning Top takes another jump in class, starting in the $250,000 John Mabee Stakes, a Grade 2 races for fillies and mares over 1 1/8 miles on turf. It is a stakes she can win, trainer Simon Callaghan said.

“I think she’s on an upward curve and getting better,” Callaghan said. “I think we’ll be one of the horses to beat. She’s getting better because she needed to come into herself.”

Owned by Michael Tabor, Turning Top was trained in England by Callaghan before he relocated a small stable to California last winter. After losing her first two starts in this country, Turning Top won an optional claimer at Santa Anita in April, which was followed by a win in an allowance race, the restricted Redondo Beach Stakes and the Beverly Hills, all at Hollywood Park during the spring-summer meeting.

The Mabee will be a tough test for Turning Top. The Grade 2 race is led by Gotta Have Her, who won the Grade 2 Royal Heroine Mile on turf at Hollywood Park on July 3. Last summer, Gotta Have Her won the Grade 2 Palomar Handicap over this turf course.

Sidney’s Candy trying turf

Sidney’s Candy, the winner of the Santa Anita Derby in April but only second in the Swaps Stakes last month, is likely to make his turf debut in Saturday’s $150,000 La Jolla Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf for 3-year-olds. Trainer by John Sadler for Jenny Craig, Sidney’s Candy was 17th in the Kentucky Derby in May.

Sunday, Sidney’s Candy worked six furlongs on turf in a quick 1:11.80, a time that was even more impressive considering the colt was working toward the middle of the track, around temporary cones.

Valenzuela exults in stakes win

Jockey Patrick Valenzuela celebrated J P’s Gusto’s win in Sunday’s Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes with a vigorous fist pump several years in the making.

“It felt really good,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela, 47, won his first stakes at Del Mar in five years aboard J P’s Gusto, a mount he picked up late last week after jockey Joe Talamo suffered a fractured wrist in a spill.

J P’s Gusto, trained by David Hofmans, won his third consecutive stakes in the Best Pal, a prep for the Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 8.

“He’s got a great future,” Valenzuela said. “I hope he does the same as Best Pal, that would be nice.”

Valenzuela won the 1990 Balboa Stakes, now known as the Best Pal, on Best Pal himself. He rode Best Pal in 11 of the gelding’s 47 races, including wins in the 1990 Del Mar Futurity and in the inaugural Pacific Classic in 1991.

Valenzuela, whose career has been plagued by substance abuse problems, returned to riding in California on July 28 after receiving a conditional license from the California Horse Racing Board contingent on drug testing and counseling for alcoholism. He had previously ridden in Louisiana and New Mexico since losing his California license.

Since his return, Valenzuela has excelled, winning seven races. Through Sunday, he was tied for sixth in the jockey’s standings.