05/29/2010 12:00AM

Tuscan Evening has edge in Gamely

Benoit & Associates
Tuscan Evening won her first four starts of the year, all at Santa Anita in graded stakes.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The second phase of Tuscan Evening's 2010 campaign begins in Saturday's $250,000 Gamely Stakes at Hollywood Park.

After winning her first four starts of the year, all at Santa Anita in graded stakes from about 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles on turf, Tuscan Evening has emerged as the leading older turf female in California.

The next few months will determine whether she can play that role on a national level.

Saturday's Grade 1 Gamely Stakes will be the toughest test of Tuscan Evening's career, which includes 10 wins in 25 starts and earnings of $899,408. Since arriving in the United States, she has won 10 of 14 starts and $816,555. Wins in seven stakes will do that for a mare's record.

The Gamely will give owner William Deburgh and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer a better indication of where Tuscan Evening ranks nationally. Of the eight entrants, seven are graded stakes winners. None has had a more prominent role in the division in recent years than Forever Together, the champion turf female of 2008, who was third in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita last November, her most recent appearance in California.

"It is the Gamely, and it is an important race," Hollendorfer said. "We expected that there would be some horses in there that are tough."

Aside from her stellar race record, Tuscan Evening may hold a tactical edge in the Gamely, which is run over 1 1/8 miles on turf. She could be alone on the lead.

Thursday, there was a possibility that Medaglia d'Amour, the winner of the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap here on May 1, could miss the Gamely because of a "warm foot," trainer Ben Cecil said.

Earlier this year, Tuscan Evening won the Grade 3 Monrovia and Grade 2 Buena Vista handicaps after stalking the early pace. She led throughout the Grade 2 Santa Ana Handicap and Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap.

"My thoughts are our filly runs on the front end or off the pace, so whatever happens, happens," Hollendorfer said. "I wouldn't be uncomfortable with either."

Hollendorfer ranks the Santa Barbara Handicap, run over 1 1/4 miles on turf on April 17, as Tuscan Evening's top performance of the year. The Santa Barbara was Tuscan Evening's longest start.

"I think the most exciting race was the new distance," Hollendorfer said. "It showed a new dimension to her. It kind of capped off a series of races that she did very well, for our barn and Will Deburgh."

If Medaglia d'Amour does not start, Gotta Have Her, the winner of the Grade 2 Palomar Handicap at Del Mar last summer, and Cat by the Tale, the winner of the Grade 2 San Gorgonio Handicap at Santa Anita in January, may be closer to the front.

Gotta Have Her was second in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint against males last fall and third after a poor start in the Grade 3 Las Cienegas Handicap at Santa Anita last month.

Cat by the Tale has lost three stakes since the San Gorgonio. Trainer Neil Drysdale is taking a realistic approach to the Gamely, with such staunch runners as Tuscan Evening and Forever Together in the field.

"I think they're superior," Drysdale said. "We're hoping for a [Grade] 1 placing."

Trainer Paddy Gallagher, who will start the Santa Barbara runner-up General Consensus, has a similar approach. "Before, it was just Tuscan Evening," he said. "Now, it's a few others."

The Gamely will be Forever Together's second start of the year, preceded by a second in the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland last month.

The other starters in the Gamely include Well Monied, who won the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap here last year and an allowance race at Santa Anita on April 4, and Princess Haya, the winner of the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes at Woodbine last fall. Princess Haya was fifth in the Wilshire in her California debut.

All of them, even Forever Together, could be supporting players for Tuscan Evening if she continues her outstanding form. A win in the Gamely could lead to Tuscan Evening starting in the $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park on Aug. 21.

"We're looking forward to having a big year," Hollendorfer said.