Beholder Wins Sixth In a Row, Preps for BC Classic
Fresh off her victory in last month’s Pacific Classic at Del Mar, Beholder easily captured the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita Park Saturday as she prepares to take on males for the second time, including one she hasn’t faced before — Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
The 5-year-old mare logged her sixth consecutive victory and her third in a row in the Zenyatta Stakes – the race named after the mare whose 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic win she will try to emulate next month at Keeneland.
“I hate to say easy, but it really did look easy,” Beholder’s trainer, Richard Mandella, said of her win by 3 ¼ lengths over her closest rival, My Sweet Addiction.
Mandella said the Breeders’ Cup Classic remains the target for Beholder, who will be seeking her third Breeders’ Cup win in three different races and her first away from Santa Anita Park.
She won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in 2012 and the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in 2013, then missed last year’s Breeders’ Cup after getting a temperature.
Beholder went off at odds of 1-9 in the Zenyatta Stakes and garnered lots of applause as she passed the finish line and then came back to the winners’ circle for her 15th victory in 20 starts.
Jockey Gary Stevens called Beholder “a great athlete” and lauded that “big brain” of hers.
“We didn’t want a tough race,” Stevens said, adding that the Breeders’ Cup is coming up and that “it’s going to be the toughest race of her life.”
He also cited temperatures in the 90s at the track in Arcadia, saying that he was “more stressed about the weather” but that “she handled it well.”
Along with American Pharoah, the Southern California-based Beholder could face some local competition from Smooth Roller, who was an easy winner with a 5 ¼-length victory over the Bob Baffert-trained Hoppertunity, in the Grade 1 Awesome Again.
Trainer Victor Garcia said it felt “great” to beat last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Bayern, who finished third in the Awesome Again and is without a win in five starts this year.
Garcia said he believed Smooth Roller – a 4-year-old son of Hard Spun who now has three wins in four starts — had a good chance in the 1 1/8-mile race. But he said the only way to find out was to “run with the big boys.”
As for whether the 2012 Keeneland purchase plans to aim for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he said without hesitation, “Absolutely.”
Nyquist kept his perfect record intact after a steward’s inquiry into his win over Swipe in The Front Runner, a Grade 1 stakes race for 2-year-olds. It was the third time in a row the Doug O’Neill trainee has beaten Swipe, who was second to Nyquist in the Best Pal and Del Mar Futurity.
Songbird also remained undefeated with a 4 ½-length victory in the Chandelier. The 2-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer.
Photo Call recorded her second win in a row on the turf – this one in the Rodeo Drive Stakes for trainer H. Graham Motion. The 4-year-old daughter of Galileo went off at odds of nearly 9-1.