Beholder runs away from the field in the Santa Anita Oaks.

Beholder runs away from the field in the Santa Anita Oaks.

Benoit Photo

Beholder Punches Ticket to Kentucky Oaks

Champion 2-year-old filly of 2012 wins Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) with supreme ease.

Beholder was in a race of her own, turning in a dominant performance to easily win the April 6 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I), her third grade I score at Santa Anita Park (VIDEO).

The $180,000 winning share of the $300,000 purse upped Beholder's lifetime earnings to $1,575,000 for owner Spendthrift Farm. The daughter of Henny Hughes, out of Leslie's Lady, was bred in Kentucky by Clarkland Farm.

The victory locks up a start for Beholder in the May Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).

Beholder has been on her game since finishing fourth in her career debut last June. In seven starts since, she has won five times with two runner-up efforts. Her victory in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) over the same strip and 1 1/16-mile distance earned the Richard Mandella trainee championship honors for 2-year-old fillies last season.

A throat ulcer might have played a part in her second-place finish in the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) to start 2013. She recovered to post an easy victory in the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) in her last outing March 2.

Mandella said he was not surprised by the ease of Beholder's win.

"You expect it, but with horse racing, you don't want to expect it too much," he said. "It'll break your heart. She just did everything right, handled herself well; she's a very good filly."

Facing just five foes, Beholder was sent to the lead from the outside gate in the Oaks by rider Garrett Gomez and had cleared the field by the time she ran under the wire the first time. For all intents and purposes, the race was over right then. Nobody came within a length of her for the remainder of the contest. Beholder led Fiftyshadesofhay by 1 1/2 lengths on the first turn and through an opening quarter in :23.61.

"She ran really well today," Gomez said. "She left the gate like a shot. I went ahead and made the decision to clear most of them. I gave (the field) a jump or two to see what they were going to do, and it looked like no one really wanted to go so I went ahead and crossed over, and was going to dictate it from there."

Nothing much changed as the field reached the backstretch. Beholder ran a half mile in :47.14 pursued by Fiftyshadesofhay and Iotapa. Entering the second turn Iotapa was sent after the leader by Joe Talamo but couldn't make an impression, as Beholder straightened for home with a two-length lead that doubled by the time she moved down the straight. Beholder was home and dry in 1:43.16 by 2 3/4 lengths over Iotapa, who had a neck on Fiftyshadesofhay. Spellbound, Could Be Trouble, and Black Witch completed the order of finish.

"Beholder set some decent fractions and stayed on well today," Gomez said. "She gives me a 110 percent when we go out there and she's just a pleasure to be on all the time. The mile and an eighth (in the May 3 Kentucky Oaks) will be another question but we'll see what happens."

Mandella said Beholder ranks with other champion fillies he has trained, such as Halfbridled in 2003 and Phone Chatter in 1993.

"She's right up there," the Hall of Fame conditioner said. "She's got the heart of a warrior."

Beholder returned $2.60, $2.20, and $2.10. Iotapa paid $7.80 and $3.80, while Fiftyshadesofhay was good for $2.10. The exacta returned $21.80 for a $2 wager.

"We're looking forward to the Kentucky Oaks," said Spendthrift owner B. Wayne Hughes. "We can't go to the Derby. They don't let (fillies) in anymore."