02/14/2010 12:00AM

Tuscan Evening near-invincible within her niche

Benoit & Associates
Middle-distance turf specialist Tuscan Evening is 7 for 11 since coming to the United States.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Tuscan Evening arrived in this country a little more than a year ago, winless in 11 starts. Since then, under the care of future Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, she has developed into one of the best female middle-distance grass runners on the West Coast, with an admirable 7 wins in 11 starts.

Distances ranging from 6 1/2 furlongs to one mile are right in her wheelhouse, and Tuscan Evening gets another fastball down the middle on Monday, when she heads a field of 12 in the Grade 2, $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap at one mile on Santa Anita's turf course.

"We're very pleased with all that she's done for us," Hollendorfer said.

She's particularly effective at Santa Anita, where she has won 4 of 6 starts, and never has finished out of the money. What makes Tuscan Evening so difficult to beat is that she always works out a good trip.

"She can sit tactically just off the pace," Hollendorfer said. "In a big field Monday, I would think she'd show some speed out of there."

Tuscan Evening, who drew well in post 5, carries top weight of 122 pounds.

Her main rivals bookend the field. Cat by the Tale, who drew the rail, is coming off a victory in the San Gorgonio Handicap going 1 1/8 miles on Jan. 2. She has won 3 of 4 starts at Santa Anita.

"I just hope she can continue improving because this field is much more difficult with the likes of Tuscan Evening," said Cat by the Tale's trainer, Neil Drysdale.

Cat by the Tale was sold after the San Gorgonio to Australian Matthew Cloros. Drysdale said Cat by the Tale will be sent to Australia to be bred on Southern Hemisphere time when she is done racing.

Spring Style is marooned in post 12, but comes off a sharp victory against a second-level allowance field going one mile on Jan. 14. She overcame a paceless field to prevail in only her second start following an eight-month layoff.

"A mile is the bare minimum for her," said Ben Cecil, who trains Spring Style. "The post doesn't help, but hopefully in a large field there will be some pace."

Pretty Unusual, entered in stakes both Saturday and Sunday, is expected to compete here. She was a good third in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf in her last start Jan. 30. This will be her fourth start of the meet.

Starlarks returns to the turf following an excellent runner-up effort in the seven-furlong La Brea on the main track on opening day Dec. 26.