03/20/2010 11:00PM

Tuscan Evening tries to go an extra furlong


ARCADIA, Calif. - The top female miler in California pushes the envelope Sunday by trying to stretch her speed 1 1/8 miles on Santa Anita's turf. And if Tuscan Evening wins the Grade 2 Santa Ana Handicap, her 2010 campaign could lead just about anywhere.

"This is a good race to try the extra distance," trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. "It would open up a new dimension; we could do more things with her."

Tuscan Evening has done plenty already. An 0-for-11 maiden when she arrived from Europe in 2008, Tuscan Evening has won 8 of 12 U.S. starts, including four graded stakes up to a mile. But can she stay nine furlongs?

"We think she can certainly get the distance," Hollendorfer said. "She finishes strong, and she doesn't pull herself up.

Tuscan Evening and jockey Rafael Bejarano could be loose on the lead in the Santa Ana, which drew eight starters, including recent Grade 2 winner Cat by the Tale, allowance winner General Consensus, and unlucky Treat Gently. Tuscan Evening carries 123 pounds, six more than her closest rival.

Already this meet, Tuscan Evening won the Grade 3 Monrovia at 6 1/2 furlongs Jan. 3, and the Grade 2 Buena Vista at one mile Feb. 15. She also scratched from two Grade 1's - the seven-furlong Santa Monica on Pro-Ride and Frank E. Kilroe Mile against males.

The hole in Tuscan Evening's resume is lack of a Grade 1. Hollendorfer hopes to correct that June 5 at Belmont Park in the Just a Game.

"First, we'd like to get past this one," he said.

Though likely to start at a short price, Tuscan Evening is no cinch at nine furlongs. Bejarano must walk the fine line between rationing her speed and allowing Tuscan Evening her to exploit her advantage. If the pace is too slow, Cat by the Tale will be ready to pounce.

Neil Drysdale trains Cat by the Tale, winner of the slow-paced Grade 2 San Gorgonio at 1 1/8 miles. Cat by the Tale has lost twice to Tuscan Evening at a mile; Sunday is their first showdown at nine furlongs. Joel Rosario rides Cat by the Tale.

Treat Gently had her saddle slip when she finished second in the San Gorgonio.

Eissoai, Chasin Dreams, Belmont Cat, and April Pride complete the field.