Gary Stevens has ridden Beholder 11 times, winning 10, the last six in a row, all 10 of the victories coming in graded stakes, six of them Grade I’s.
Next up: Saturday’s Grade I Vanity Stakes at Santa Anita, where Beholder has won 12 of 13 races including the Grade I Zenyatta three times, the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Distaff in 2013 and the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in 2012. The bay daughter of Henny Hughes earned Eclipse Awards at two, three and five.
Now six years old and likely to race next year if all is well according to owner B. Wayne Hughes, who campaigns as Spendthrift Farm, LLC, Beholder has won 16 of 21 career starts and earned $4,496,600 under the patient and sagacious guidance of trainer Richard Mandella.
“She’s matured and she is bigger and stronger,” said Stevens, who has been riding regularly in Kentucky the past month. “I don’t know if she’s any faster, but I think she is. I’ve been in Kentucky and I haven’t worked her since before her last race (the Adoration Stakes run on May 8), and that’s kind of been by Richard’s design.
“She started realizing that when I got on her, she’d be getting close to a race, but I’ve been keeping track of her and it looks like Richard’s been filling my rocket booster pretty good.”
Beholder has won her last six races by a combined margin of nearly four lengths, but Stevens notes that “appearance and performance are two different things. The Pacific Classic (an 8 ¼-length romp against males last Aug. 22) looked easy, and it was easy, but Beholder puts a lot into her races.
“Even after the Adoration (a handy two-and-a-half length score against five rivals), she lied down and slept. The races are easy, but that’s one of Richard’s great attributes: he knows what a race takes out of her, and he knows her so well he prepares her properly for each race.
“From what I’ve observed and from what I’ve heard from my friends here whose opinions I respect, I’m really excited about tomorrow. People are already talking about (Beholder running in) the Pacific Classic, but it’s one race at a time. That’s horse racing and I don’t take any of them lightly.”
Beholder worked four furlongs Tuesday in 48.60, breezing, with fractional times of 24.20 and 35.80.
As for Gary’s personal agenda, the 53-year-old Hall of Fame rider has the immediate future mapped out.
“I’ll go back to Kentucky probably Tuesday or Wednesday,” he said. “I’ll ride there and come back sometime before the Triple Bend (June 25) to ride Kobe’s Back. I’ll breeze him here Sunday morning (five furlongs for Peter Eurton).
“I’m enjoying myself in Kentucky, I’m riding races, winning some, and it’s been a good Spring. It’s freshened me up and I’ll be ready for Del Mar.”
Trainer John Sadler, meanwhile, is resigned to the fact that come-backing three-year-old filly champion of 2015 Stellar Wind drew the rail for the Vanity.
“She’s doing well,” Sadler said of Stellar Wind, who has not raced since her second by a neck in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff last Oct. 30. “The post is what it is. It’s not the best post, that’s for sure, but she looks good.
“We’ll take her over there and see how it goes tomorrow. It’s a starting off point.”
The Vanity: Stellar Wind, Victor Espinoza, 3-1; Beholder, Gary Stevens, 1-5; Divina Comedia, Joe Talamo, 30-1; Taris, Flavien Prat, 5-1; Lost Bus, Fernando Perez, 20-1; All Star Bub, Rafael Bejarano, 30-1; and Finest City, Tyler Baze, 15-1.
NO OBVIOUSLY, BUT D’AMATO HAS TWO IN SHOEMAKER MILE
Obviously, a two-time winner of Saturday’s Grade I Shoemaker Mile on turf, will stay in his stall this year, but leading trainer Phil D’Amato has entered two of his runners in the $400,000, “Win and You’re In” race that gives the winner a fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile to be run at Santa Anita on Nov. 5.
D’Amato, leading runner-up Jerry Hollendorfer, 14-8, through 17 racing days, has entered Cape Wolfe and Midnight Storm in the Shoemaker.
Cape Wolfe, a four-year-old English-bred gelding, is coming off a fourth-place finish in an overnight race at about 6 ½ furlongs on the hillside turf course May 12, but was fourth in the Grade II Arcadia Stakes at a mile on grass Feb. 13.
“I think he’s ready for a mile this time around, so we’ll see,” D’Amato said of Cape Wolfe, winless but never worse than fourth in his four U.S. starts.
As for Obviously, an eight-year-old Irish-bred gelding that won the Shoemaker in 2013 and 2014, D’Amato opted not to thrust the old war horse into a potential pace battle with East Coast invader and 9-5 morning line favorite Heart to Heart, a committed front runner trained by Brian Lynch.
“Obviously is doing well,” D’Amato said. “We’re just looking for a softer spot where it looks like he won’t get in a speed duel. We want a race where he can control the pace and do his thing.
“I might run him at Belmont (Jaipur Invitational June 11 or the Poker Stakes on June 18) or Churchill (Wise Dan on June 18).”
The Shoemaker, which goes as race six: Heart to Heart, Julien Leparoux, 9-5; Twentytwentyvision, Flavien Prat, 7-2; Tourist, Jose Lezcano, 5-2; Home Run Kitten, Joe Talamo, 5-1; Cape Wolfe, Mike Smith, 12-1; and Midnight Storm, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1.
EXAGGERATOR TO WORK TUESDAY FOR BELMONT
John Keith Desormeaux, trainer and part owner of Santa Anita Derby and Preakness winner Exaggerator, leaves Sunday for New York to personally finalize 11th-hour arrangements for the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes on June 11.
“It’s all good,” Desormeaux said Friday morning at Santa Anita. “I leave Sunday to join (assistant and girlfriend) Julie (Clark). She’s doing all the work there. I just write the checks and keep my mouth shut (laughing).
“I haven’t really looked at the race on paper, but it doesn’t matter if there’s pace or no pace. He can be close or 15 off. That’s Kent’s department, not mine. Exaggerator will work five furlongs Tuesday, and at this point, Kent’s supposed to be there (to work the colt).”
Meanwhile, Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, trained by Doug O’Neill for Reddam Racing, LLC, is doing well following a fever that caused him to miss the Belmont.
“He jogged this morning (at Pimlico) and he’ll be here in two more days (Sunday),” said O’Neill assistant Leandro Mora at Santa Anita Friday morning.
FINISH LINES: Santa Anita’s first post time will change to 1:30 p.m. starting Thursday, June 9 and continue through the conclusion of the Spring Meet, Sunday, July 10, with the exception of Belmont Stakes Day, June 11, when it will be 12 noon . . . Agent Craig Stephen, dismissed by Santiago Gonzalez May 21, is back in action, representing Fernando Perez effective today. Tommy Ball had been Perez’s agent . . . Donworth, third behind Hoppertunity and Imperative in the Grade II San Antonio Stakes last February, worked six furlongs from the gate Friday in a bullet 1:11.40 for Doug O’Neill . . . Four wins separate leader Rafael Bejarano (19) from Edwin Maldonado (15), with Flavien Prat (18) second and Tyler Baze (17) third . . . Cyrus Alexander, winner of Monday’s Lone Star Park Handicap under Martin Garcia, is a candidate for the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 25 for Jerry Hollendorfer, as is stablemate Lieutenant Colonel . . . Trainer Bill Morey Jr. and Xpressbet TV’s Jeff Siegel will be Tom Quigley’s guests, Saturday and Sunday, respectively, 12:50 p.m. in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Crack handicapper Bob Ike points out that both Secretariat and Beholder won 16 of 21 starts (each with three seconds), Big Red doing it over 16 months, while Beholder is now in her fifth season of racing.
Santa Anita Park