Beholder, America’s Eclipse Champion 2-year-old filly for 2012, will try to avenge her odds-on defeat to longshot Renee's Titan in the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) last month when they square off at Santa Anita Park in the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) March 2.
The one-mile Las Virgenes, for 3-year-old fillies going one mile on the main track, attracted a field of eight.
In her sophomore debut Jan. 21, last year's Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) champion was sent off as the overwhelming 1-5 favorite in the 6 1/2-furlong Santa Ynez. The Richard Mandella-trained Beholder appeared to have a trouble-free trip with Garrett Gomez up, and the daughter of Henny Hughes battled gamely through the stretch but ended up second-best, beaten three quarters of a length.
Beholder was fourth on the backstretch before advancing to challenge pacesetter Dawn's Charm in the Jan. 21 Santa Ynez.
Undeterred, Hall of Famer Mandella indicated following the Santa Ynez that he’d point Beholder to the Las Virgenes despite the setback.
"She just got a little tired, I’d say. She had a nice trip," Mandella said.
The Las Virgenes carries 50 points for the winner toward a potential start in this year's Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 3 at Churchill Downs. The race, the sixth on Saturday's 11-race Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) program, is one of three grade I races that will be contested. It has a probable post of 2:30 p.m. PST.
Beholder, the 122-pound high weight, has trained forwardly since the Santa Ynez, and Mandella described her five-furlong Feb. 24 in :59 3/5 as "Sweet."
"I expect her to run her best race," said Mandella, who nursed Beholder back from a minor throat ulcer after the Santa Ynez setback. "The throat issue is resolved."
Owned by B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm, Beholder has three wins and a pair of seconds from six starts, with $1,245,000 in earnings.
Renee’s Titan, off at 20-1 in the Santa Ynez, is out to prove her come-from-behind win was no fluke. Like Beholder, she too, has also trained forwardly since for trainer Doug O'Neill. A Kentucky-bred filly by Bernstein, she has three works on her tab since the Santa Ynez, two of them going five furlongs from the gate.
Owned by Zillah Reddam, she has earnings of $165,400. She has two wins and two seconds from seven starts.
Fiftyshadesofhay, who earned a Las Virgenes-best last out Beyer speed figure of 90 in winning the Santa Ysabel (gr. III) Jan. 26 by 5 3/4 lengths, is a serious challenger. She will cut back in distance a sixteenth of a mile and rates a huge chance to win.
The Kentucky-bred daughter of Pulpit pressed the pace in the Santa Ysabel with Rafael Bejarano up and she and Beholder could likely hook up in a speed duel Saturday. Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, Fiftyshadesofhay is trained by Bob Baffert. With earnings of $106,490, her record stands at 6-2-1-1.
Second to Fiftyshadesofhay in the Santa Ysabel, the Peter Miller-trained Heir Kitty came back to run a close third in the Sweet Life Stakes at about 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course Feb. 16.
Owned by David Bernsen and Paul Makin, she’ll be ridden for the first time by Julien Leparoux. Her record stands at 8-2-2-1, with earnings of $127,572.
$250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I, Race 6, 2:30 p.m.), 3YO Fillies, 1 Mile
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Ridingwiththedevil (KY), G L Stevens, 117, M Glatt
2. Fiftyshadesofhay (KY), R Bejarano, 119, B Baffert
3. Lady Asano (FL), J Lezcano, 117, J W Sadler
4. Speedinthruthecity (KY), J Talamo, 117, S M Asmussen
5. Beholder (KY), G K Gomez, 122, R E Mandella
6. Scarlet Strike (KY), M E Smith, 117, J Hollendorfer
7. Renee's Titan (KY), T Baze, 117, D F O'Neill
8. Heir Kitty (FL), J R Leparoux, 117, P Miller
Blinkers Off: Speedinthruthecity