ARCADIA, CA – Bo Hirsch homebred Ce Ce overcame a less-than-ideal post position and a loose-early foe to see her way past the heavily-favored Hard Not to Love and win Saturday’s $400,000 Beholder Mile Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park.

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Exiting the far outside post 7 under Victor Espinoza at 4/1 odds, Ce Ce broke out slightly at the start and was off the pace early, having to run wide into the clubhouse turn. Meanwhile, the rail-breaking 3/5 top pick Hard Not to Love was sent up to take command and secure a clean running position. Under Mike Smith, the bettors’ choice posted opening fractions of :22.63, :45.72, and 1:10.36 while Der Lu and Ollie’s Candy raced close behind.

Advancing into and through the final turn, Ce Ce exited onto the stretch and presented Hard Not to Love with a strong challenge. Pushing past her foe with every stride home, the Mike McCarthy trainee soon crossed 3 1/4 lengths ahead in a final time of 1:37.33 for the mile-long event over the fast main track.

Credit: Ernie Belmonte

“I thought there was just one speed horse (Hard Not to Love), but it changed and that helped me,” Espinoza said. “We were able to take back a little and she was so full of run, I wanted to make the leader work a little bit at the 3/8, so I let my filly go a little. Down the lane, she was in control.”

Though no match for the winner, Hard Not to Love finished 3 3/4 lengths clear of Ollie’s Candy for second. KaydetreZusha, and Der Lu completed the order of finish.

Ce Ce’s win was her second straight since returning from a layoff that followed a fourth-place finish in the Acorn Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park. The 4-year-old daughter of Elusive Quality now carries a record of 5-3-1-0 with $366,600 earned.

“She’s come back better than ever,” Espinoza said. “She ran against some of the best fillies in the world in New York, and she ran just like she ran the other day.”

Winner returned $ to win, $ to place, and $ to show. Place brought back $ to place and $ to show, while Show paid $ to show.