01/03/2010 1:00AM

Tuscan Evening taking it step by step

Barbara D. Livingston
Tuscan Evening, winning the one-mile Las Palmas on turf, will cut back to 6 1/2 furlongs Sunday, then switch to the main track Jan 31.

ARCADIA, Calif. - How does a turf miler convert to main-track sprinter? If her name is Tuscan Evening and she is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, the transformation is a step at a time.

The goal for Tuscan Evening is the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap, a main-track sprint Jan. 31.

"She's training too good to wait until then," assistant Dan Ward said.

Instead, she will shorten in distance Sunday at Santa Anita, then switch surfaces in four weeks.

Tuscan Evening emerged in fall as one of California's top female turf milers, winning the Grade 2 Las Palmas at Santa Anita before finishing second to Ventura in the Grade 1 Matriarch at Hollywood Park, her most recent start, Nov. 28.

To prepare for a sprint on Pro-Ride, Tuscan Evening will sprint on turf Sunday in the Grade 3 Monrovia Handicap.

"We want to run in the Santa Monica, and the best way to do that is to run in the Monrovia," Ward said.

Tuscan Evening and jockey Rafael Bejarano will try hard to win the Monrovia. But at 6 1/2 furlongs on grass, in a race that is a stepping-stone, they are playing others' game, in particular Pasar Silbano, Reba Is Tops, and Queen Ofthe Catsle. Eleven entered the Monrovia, race 7 on the nine-race card.

William de Burgh owns Tuscan Evening, who won 6 of 10 in 2009, not bad for an import that arrived as a maiden after 11 starts in Europe. In the Monrovia, Tuscan Evening will be on familiar footing. She won her first two U.S. starts on the Santa Anita downhill course last winter.

To win the Monrovia, 5-year-old Tuscan Evening must catch 4-year-old front-runner Pasar Silbano, who returned from a five-month layoff Oct. 17 with a huge runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Ken Maddy. Pasar Silbano set a fast pace, got collared, but held second and finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Tuscan Evening.

Jim Cassidy trains Pasar Silbano, who won the Grade 3 La Habra Stakes for 3-year-old fillies last February in her second U.S. start. Her campaign stalled in spring due to a foot problem; her runner-up try in the Maddy was her comeback.

David Flores rides 5-for-11 Pasar Silbano, who gets in light at 115 pounds and appears to be the controlling speed. Reba Is Tops, 10 for 21, will be in pursuit; Queen Ofthe Catsle figures close.