By Becky Johnston
Evening gone to soon
It is an understatement to say
this sport has highs and lows.
Even after 20 years, I am still
surprised when the cold slap of reality strikes me firmly across the face. I chastise myself in these instances for
allowing my spirit to go to those peaks with the sport. The fall comes faster than any chair can be
pulled from beneath you and the ground is so much harder.
The weekend that was
Friday's races at Saratoga brought the fairytale story of a half-blind filly that
carries the hopes of his owner/trainer and possibly the spirit of Lisa's Booby
Trap's namesake. You couldn't have
hoped for a better outcome than her win.
The trust and faith of man and beast even extended to jockey Kent
Desormeaux, who has seen a few better days too.
Oh the places they take us!
The Whitney showcased what can be
great about this sport. The challenge to
fans and handicappers to pledge their allegiance to one side or the other, with
great passion for their chosen horse.
Let the arguments begin! It has
been a long time since we have had this kind of race at this point in the
summer for the handicap division. The
colts have won 15 of their 21 starts.
Could Quality Road defeat a great colt like Blame, giving him five pounds and
go a distance that might be a touch longer than his brilliance can carry
him? Handicappers then had to wonder if
Blame would have enough pace to run into.
Would he have the ground necessary to catch Quality Road, even with his powerful closing clip.
Two great colts owned by longtime
thoroughbred owners that possess their share of our sport's great history and
the race was no disappointment. The
contest decided by a short margin that left plenty of room for debate before
the next meeting.
Oh yes and her!
Then Zenyatta takes us to the
ballet for the evening. It doesn't
matter what the margin of victory is. It
doesn't matter if there is no great drama.
She hits her crescendo like a fine orchestra giving the performance of
She came out and did her
dance. She performed and then with a
charming arrogance asks the crowd "How do you like me now?"
After Zenyatta's race, melancholy
sets in a little. The realization there
are only a couple more dates for us with Zenyatta. My thoughts quickly shift and I comfort
myself with thoughts of all the exciting dates to come. Blind Luck facing off against Devil May Care
in the Alabama on August 21st.
Arlington Million day and the gutsy Tuscan Evening in the Beverly
D. The Pacific Classic, the fall New York series, and finally the Breeders' Cup and the return of
Our cup runneth over!
Try as I might to remember the
hurt, I sometimes get so caught up in the loftiness of the highs I forget to
protect myself from the bitter certainty of the lows. They hit you with such surprising cruelty
just as sure as the sun will rise each day. Racing fans are resilient, we live
for the highs of the sport. We somehow
must make peace with the lows.
The news Sunday morning of the
loss of the gutsy Tuscan Evening could not have been more unexpected. Again, I chastise myself for letting my feet
come off the ground and to count on things that might never come to pass.
We will never again see the
milky-mouthed mare run her heart out.
The one thing I was sure of, she would never run out of heart. Unfortunately, these are not mythical
creatures. They are living, breathing
fragile blessings that sweep into our lives and then just as quickly
disappear. Alas, they can simply run out
These glorious creatures give us
afternoons where problems float away, giving us respite from the mundane
ordinary things that fill our lives with forgettable duties. We drudge through to get to the good
Well, Tuscan Evening was a part of
my good stuff.
Tuscan Evening gone on August 8th,
2010 at the age of five.
She started her career the same
year as Zenyatta, but the bay filly had a different beginning. Her seventh place finish at Naas Racecourse
May 16, 2007 in County Kildare gave no inkling of what she might become. She raced at two Royal Ascot meetings before
we even knew her in this country. She
was 0 for 11 in two years time, but her connections must have seen the
possibility of her. After an ownership change
in her three-year-old season, the winless filly managed a Group 1 placing with
a second in the Irish One Thousand Guineas in 2008. Tuscan Evening was a head away from being a
Jerry Hollendorfer took over the
training of the filly at the end of the 2008 season. He first saddled her for owner William
DeBurgh on January 22, 2009 in a maiden special weight race at Santa Anita, her
twelfth start. The Irish filly was a
California Girl now and it appeared to agree with her. She won her first race by a commanding five
lengths on the tricky downhill course in 1:12.
The four-year-old peeled off four
more wins in her next five starts including the Grade 2 Royal Heroine at Hollywood
Park. She threw in a
clunker at Del Mar in the Grade 1 John C. Mabee last summer behind
Magical Fantasy with an eight place finish, but that was the last time she
would fail to hit the board.
After a third place finish in her
next start, she would re-partner with jockey Rafael Bejarano who had already
won twice with the daughter of Oasis Dream.
They added seven more wins, losing only once to Ventura in last year's Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes. She was undefeated, a perfect 6-0 this year,
all in graded company. Her first Grade 1
win in the Gamely Handicap appeared to be far from her last, but it was to be her
last and only Grade 1 win.
What might have been.....
Here are some of the great
memories that Tuscan Evening leaves behind for her fans.
June 6, 2009, Tuscan Evening earns
her first stakes victory in the Redondo
Beach at Hollywood
The filly scores her first graded
stakes race in the Royal Heroine (G2) on July 11, 2009
In 2010 Tuscan Evening reeled off
three straight before entering the Santa Barbara, a mile and a quarter test on April 17, 2010.
The Gamely, the elusive Grade 1,
was next on May 29th. This was Tuscan
Evening's third try for the highest grade in this country. It wasn't going to be easy with former
champion Forever Together shipping in.
"No matter what you do, you can't beat her." Vic Stauffer
Park's Modesty Handicap, a Grade 3 prep for the Grade 1 The
Beverly D was to be her last start. She
removed another question mark from any doubters left out there, she could win
outside of California.