She has that bounce in her stride, that gleam in her eye. At Tommy T's, a watering hole for the racing crowd from Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, word has it that a little filly named Tiffany is a sure bet to win the big race.
But Tiffany, the 15-month-old daughter of Doe Sincavage, a waitress at Tommy T's, will need a lot of help in the stretch drive. She was born without her main heart artery and with a hole in her heart the size of a dime.
Her doctor says Tiffany, a lively, curly-haired blonde with blue eyes, has a potentially fatal condition and will need a major operation within the next two years to survive.
The surgery, which involves implanting an artery and repairing the hole, will cost about $25,000, according to Dr. Arno Hohn, head of cardiology at Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles, where Tiffany periodically receives treatment. If she outgrows the implanted artery, Tiffany eventually will need additional operations, Hohn said.
Sincavage says she and her husband, James, a truck driver, have no insurance and they already have spent all their savings on tests. "You never know how much you need insurance until something like this happens," said Sincavage, who lives in Arcadia.
But it appears that the horse people are coming to the rescue.
Tommy T's proprietors, who include Tommy Turiace and veteran horse trainer Jimmy Jordan, are sponsoring a $10-a-head "Have a Heart for Tiffany" benefit dinner at 6 p.m. Monday at the St. Rita's Church Hall, 318 N. Baldwin Ave., Sierra Madre.
"She's such a cute little thing," said Turiace, who has decorated his eatery with posters announcing the fund-raiser. Turiace's restaurant is within a furlong of Santa Anita.
An assortment of Tommy T's regulars, including jockeys Eddie Delahoussaye and Ray Sibille, are helping out, Turiace said. A local television store has donated the door prize.
"Almost everybody at the track is buying tickets," said Sibille, one of Sincavage's customers at the restaurant.
"Everybody who comes in here is like family," said Sincavage, 40, who has worked at the restaurant for six years. "Race trackers are wonderful people. They take care of their own."
Doctors discovered Tiffany's heart problem when she was about 2 months old, Sincavage said. By a quirk of fate, Tiffany was born with an open duct that normally is closed. The open duct has allowed her damaged heart to function better than it otherwise might have, Hohn said.
"We're surprised she's doing as well as she is," Sincavage said. "At first, they (doctors) said she'd be sick all the time, but she's been OK."
Hohn said he hopes to wait until Tiffany is older before he attempts to graft a new artery. "It is a very involved operation," Hohn said. "It probably will be natural tissue from another child. We're postponing plans for an immediate operation. I would envision an operation at 2 or 3 years old. Ultimately, we think the prognosis is optimistic. Marvelous things are being done these days."
So far, Tiffany seems to be taking it all in stride. "She's too young to know what's going on," her mother said.