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Beholder wires Santa Anita Oaks

  • Beholder tops the Ky Oaks leaderboard following her Santa Anita Oaks victory (Benoit Photos)

Spendthrift Farm's Beholder continued on her quest for Kentucky Oaks glory with an easy 2 3/4-length victory in the Grade 1, $300,250 Santa Anita Oaks at Saturday at the Arcadia, California, track.

The Richard Mandella-trained daughter of Henny Hughes, who was honored with an Eclipse Award as champion two-year-old filly following a nice win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last November, has continued to improve as a sophomore and finished up the 1 1/16-mile, fast-track Santa Anita Oaks in 1:43 with regular rider Garrett Gomez along for the ride.

The win gave the filly an additional 100 points toward a starting berth in the Kentucky Oaks on May 3 at Churchill Downs, shooting her to the top of the leaderboard with 164 points.

"It's pretty nice to have her, points or no points. Don't confuse me with math," Mandella quipped, before adding, "The Kentucky Oaks is what we'll look at (for her next race). She's right up there (with the champion fillies he's trained, such as Halfbridled and Phone Chatter). She's got the heart of a warrior."

"I thought she ran her usual race. She went to the front," Spendthrift Farm's B. Wayne Hughes stated. "Garrett was smart enough to keep her there and we're very happy to have her do this. We're looking forward to the Kentucky Oaks. We can't go to the Derby. They don't let us in anymore."

Beholder ran to her odds as the 1-5 favorite, taking command out of the gate and setting fractions of :23 3/5, :47, 1:10 4/5 and 1:36 3/5. Black Witch to her inside and Fiftyshadesofhay on the outside initially tried to go with the swift filly, but both decided to bide their time racing just in behind on the backstretch. Black Witch began fading nearing the turn, but Fiftyshadesofhay was just gearing up for her run.

As Beholder sailed into the lane, Fiftyshadesofhay tried to have a go at her but could never make up any ground. Beholder kept right on motoring to the wire as Iotapa came flying to snatch second away from Fiftyshadesofhay by a neck on the line.

"She ran really well today. She left the gate like a shot," Gomez said. "I went ahead and made the decision to clear most of them. I gave them (the field) a jump or two to see what they were going to do, and it looked like no one really wanted to go so I went ahead and crossed over, and was going to dictate it from there.

"Beholder set some decent fractions and stayed on well today. She gives me a 110 percent when we go out there and she's just a pleasure to be on all the time. The mile and an eighth (in the Kentucky Oaks) will be another question but we'll see what happens."

Beholder was worth $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10 to her many backers, and padded her already impressive bankroll with the $180,000 winner's share to now boast $1,575,000 from an 8-5-2-0 career mark.

"You expect it (as result like this), but with horse racing, you don't want to expect it too much. It'll break your heart," Mandella said. "She just did everything right, handled herself well; she's a very good filly."

The Henny Hughes miss and Fiftyshadesofhay were facing a rematch in the Santa Anita Oaks after meeting for the first time last out in the Las Virgenes, which Beholder captured by 3 3/4 lengths over that rival.

"I knew she was going to have to work a little harder today, just from the simple fact that (trainer Bob) Baffert let my horse get an easy lead in the Las Virgenes. I knew his filly (Fiftyshadesofhay) would be up on top of me somewhere along the way today, which she was, early. She kind of tried to keep up with me today so I think that probably cost her from running on," Gomez added.

"The winner was much the best today," admitted Rafael Bejarano, who had riding duties aboard Fiftyshadesofhay. "I tried to keep my position but I just couldn't catch the winner. My horse came running at the end but it wasn't enough."

Following Iotapa and Fiftyshadesofhay was Spellbound, with Could Be Trouble and Black Witch completing the order under the wire.

Unlike her more recent contemporaries, Beholder earned an Eclipse Award as the 2012 champion two-year-old filly with a less than perfect record. The Mandella pupil finished a well-beaten fourth in her career debut at Hollywood Park last June before capturing a Del Mar maiden by 3 1/4 lengths one month later. She tried stakes rivals for the first time in the Del Mar Debutante and just missed by a nose after leading throughout.

Mandella decided to give his bay filly a confidence builder, as well as a first try on dirt, when saddling her next out in an allowance at Santa Anita, and the move proved worthwhile when Beholder recorded a hand-ridden, 11-length victory. Speculation ran high that the Kentucky-bred miss would go in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint but her connections opted for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and the bay lass got the job done in gate-to-wire fashion while going 1 1/16 miles for the first time.

That was enough for Beholder to be named champion juvenile filly, and she was sent off the 1-5 favorite in her three-year-old bow in the 6 1/2-furlong Santa Ynez, but was never on her game and wound up second. Not long after, Beholder was diagnosed with a throat ulcer but proved she had fully recovered with her Las Virgenes score last out on March 2.

Bred by Clarkland Farm, Beholder came to B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift Farm as a $180,000 Keeneland September yearling. She is out of the stakes-winning Tricky Creek mare Leslie's Lady, making her a half-sister to Grade 1-scoring sire Into Mischief. This is the same female family as yet another Grade 1-winning stallion in Roanoke.

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