It seemed as close to a forgone conclusion as a big race could get. The Beverly D. is arguably the most important turf race for the fairer sex until the Breeders’ Cup, and consistently attracts a loaded field of lawn loving fillies and mares. Last year though, there was one horse that stood head and shoulders above the rest. Her name was Tuscan Evening.
Tuscan Evening would never have the chance to run in the Beverly D., however. The winner of six stakes in six starts last year, died of an acute pulmonary hemorrhage after a workout at Del Mar on Sunday, August 8, 2010. Tuscan Evening collapsed while galloping out after a six furlong workout on turf. Her shocking death came less than two weeks before the Grade 1 Beverly D., where she would have been a certain and strong favorite in Arlington’s premier event for fillies and mares.
Owned by William DeBurgh and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, the five-year-old daughter of Oasis Dreams had won 12 of 27 starts at the time of her passing, including nine stakes, and earned $1,138,508. But that impressive record only told part of her racing story.
An Irish-bred, Tuscan Evening began her career in England and Ireland. Despite placing in five stakes, including passing the wire second best in the 2008 Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas, the bay filly left Europe still a maiden after eleven starts. That losing would come to an abrupt and decisive end when she was transferred to Hollendorfer’s California stable near the end of her three-year-old season.
Winning six of her first ten starts in America, Tuscan Evening proved she was one of the best turf mares in California when she closed her 2009 campaign with a bang-up second place finish to the champion Ventura in the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes. It was a season that included two grade 2 wins, in the Royal Heroine and Las Palmas Handicap, but the best was yet to come.
In 2010, Tuscan Evening took things to a whole new and exciting level. Showing off her great class and versatility, she began her season at Santa Anita by rolling through a schedule of graded stakes that very few horses would dare try. First it was the Monrovia Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs, then the Buena Vista Handicap at a flat mile. Next was the Santa Ana Handicap at 1 1/8 miles, and finally the Santa Barbara Handicap at 1 1/4 miles. In rolling through each graded stakes of significantly varying distances, she accomplished what had never been done before. She kept it rolling with a victory over champion Forever Together in the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes at Hollywood Park, before running her perfect streak to six when she won the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap over Arlington Park’s turf course on July 17.
As for the Beverly D., the race would be run with a tangible and sizeable void left by the tragic passing of Tuscan Evening. Serving to underscore the excellence of the departed mare, the horse she had defeated rather easily in the Modesty, Éclair de Lune, won the big race. Bear in mind, in the Modesty, run at the same track and distance as the Beverly D., Tuscan Evening gave Éclair de Lune eleven pounds.
I was there for Tuscan Evening’s win in the Modesty … little did I know how much I would be missing her just one month later at the Beverly D.
Photo courtesy of Four Footed Fotos