The field for Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Beholder Mile Stakes at Santa Anita may only contain six runners, but the race is full of heavy-hitters headlined by 2017 Eclipse Award winner Unique Bella. The Beholder Mile has a long history of greatness dating back to when it was called the Vanity Handicap that Zenyatta won three years in a row at Hollywood Park. Now at Santa Anita, the Beholder Mile’s legacy has been carried on by greats such as Stellar Wind and, yes, Beholder.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s Unique Bella comes into this race looking for revenge after a second-place effort last time out in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park. She lost all chance that day after a terrible start out of the gate, but it was still a surprising loss because she went off at odds of 1-5. She returns to Santa Anita where she has won six of seven lifetime races and will break from post 6 with Mike Smith aboard.
Trainer Richard Mandella’s Paradise Woods is also looking for revenge after losing her last three races. Two starts back, she ran well to finish second in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes, 3/4 of a length behind Unique Bella. With her draw to the inside of Unique Bella, and her solid early speed, she is likely to set the initial pace. The red-hot Flavien Prat will have the mount out of post 4.
Last year’s runner-up, Vale Dori, is back again to give it another shot this year. However, she comes into this race off of much different circumstances than last season when she had won five straight before finishing second to Stellar Wind by a neck. This year, she enters off of three straight losses, including a poor 2018 debut last out in the Grade 3 Adoration Stakes. She will try to rebound herewith jockey Rafael Bejarano back aboard for the first time since the 2017 Beholder.
The field for this year’s Beholder Mile from the rail out: Munny Spunt, Mopotism, La Force, Paradise Woods, Vale Dori, and Unique Bella. Local post time for the race will be 4:30 PM PT.
#6 Unique Bella – The big gray filly is back and ready to dominate. In losing the Apple Blossom, she broke terribly and was never comfortable on what turned out to be a tiring “good” track. She was still able to take the lead for a while in the race, but she was inevitably caught and defeated by Unbridled Mo. Her return to Santa Anita will be well-received because she loves the track, having won six in a row here, and has the talent to put this field away with relative ease. All she needs is a better break from the gate and she should cruise to her second career Grade 1 victory.
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#4 Paradise Woods – Her inconsistencies have frustrated handicappers, but in reality, she’s starting to be labeled as one that needs a perfect trip to win. When left alone on the lead, she cruises to victory with relative ease, but when pressured, she has not shown the willingness to fight back. Two races ago, she matched up with Unique Bella while going 7 furlongs in the La Brea, and she stayed with the big filly before losing by 3/4 of a length. Now she’ll go a mile, and unless something happens to Unique Bella like in the Apple Blossom, I’m not sure that Paradise Woods can match up with her.
#5 Vale Dori – After a great 2017 that saw Vale Dori win four of six starts, the now-6-year-old mare disappointed in her 2018 debut, finishing a well-beaten fifth in the Adoration. However, it’s a good sign that Baffert has entered her in this race because it means that he is confident that she is doing well. She was valiant in defeat in this spot last year. but this year, she faces another tough task of having to match up with Unique Bella. Perhaps she can at least improve off of her poor 2018 debut race.
#2 Mopotism – How about this entry? She’ll wheel back on just one week of rest after a non-threatening seventh over the turf in last week’s Grade 1 Gamely Stakes. Earlier in the year, she won the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes when horses like Unique Bella and Paradise Woods were not around. Although she has proven that she can be competitive in the underneath spots in tougher races, she has never proven that she can match up with the likes of Unique Bella. That will likely not change here. SCRATCHED
NONE – It is hard to make a case for anyone other than Unique Bella in this spot, and if she loses, it will probably be to Paradise Woods, but she is not considered a party crasher.
#3 La Force – She has had some some chances against lessor competition in major stakes races but has failed to get the job done. Now she goes up against a very top-heavy field and is most likely not ready for this sort of challenge.
#1 Munny Spunt – There is just not much on her resume that makes this former claimer competitive against this field. This will be her second start off of a layoff, so perhaps that will help, but she will need a lot of luck to make any impact in this race.