05/08/2016 5:47PM

Beholder looks razor-sharp in Adoration victory

Benoit & Associates
The 6-year-old mare Beholder returns from a long layoff to win the Adoration under Gary Stevens by 2 1/4 lengths.

ARCADIA, Calif.- The details were predictable. Beholder won Sunday’s $100,345 Adoration Stakes at Santa Anita as the 1-20 favorite by 2 1/4 lengths for her 14th stakes win and seventh consecutive victory, padding an already epic resume.

A three-time champion, Beholder returned from a seven-month layoff on Sunday, but won as if she was in peak form. The easy victory left trainer Richard Mandella eager to see how the 2016 season will unfold for the 6-year-old mare.

“Every year, she’s a little bigger and a little stronger,” Mandella said.

Beholder’s 2016 campaign is designed to include starts against males in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 20 and the Breeders’ Cup Classic here on Nov. 5. Beholder won the 2015 Pacific Classic in her first career start against males by 8 1/4 lengths.

Sunday’s race was a tune-up for the $400,000 Vanity Mile, a Grade 1 for fillies and mares on June 4.  Her victory on Sunday was a trial.

“She was supposed to win the race and that usually makes trainers more nervous than anything because you look bad if they get beat,” Mandella said.

Ridden by Gary Stevens, Beholder won the Grade 3 Adoration Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths over Sheer Pleasure. Beholder ($2.10) ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.73 without being urged. All Star Bub, a 24-1 outsider, finished third.

Breaking from the outside in a field of six, Beholder took her customary position shortly after the start, racing as a stalker.

Beholder was four-wide on the first turn, outside of Mayo Honey, All Star Bub, and Sheer Pleasure. She was third entering the backstretch, while still racing off the rail.

When the field settled on the backstretch, Beholder quickly moved closer to the front. She was within a half-length of leader Sheer Pleasure on the backstretch and raced in that position through a half-mile in 48.25 seconds.

From Mandella’s perspective, Stevens had Beholder in the ideal place.

“She likes a target to run at,” Mandella said. “He did a great job.”

On the final turn, Sheer Pleasure led by a length, but the margin narrowed when Stevens urged Beholder at the quarter pole. Beholder led into the stretch while racing two-wide and was in front by two lengths with a furlong remaining.

Stevens, who rates Beholder as one of the finest horses he has ridden, was delighted with the comeback.

“I get to have all the fun,” Stevens said, complimenting Mandella and his staff. “I had to let her do a little something in the last sixteenth because she wanted to.”

Beholder has won seven consecutive races, beginning with the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes here in September 2014. The win streak includes the 2015 Adoration Stakes and the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar last August.

Owned by B. Wayne Hughes, Beholder has won 16 of 21 starts and earned $4,496,600 in her career.

The Adoration Stakes was her first start since a win in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes here last September. She was scheduled to start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland last October, but was withdrawn after she bled in a gallop.

Beholder has won three Eclipse Awards – as outstanding 2-year-old filly of 2012, outstanding 3-year-old filly of 2013, and older mare of 2015.

Her 2016 campaign has been designed with a fourth title in mind.