09/27/2014 5:48PM

Beholder strong enough in Zenyatta Stakes

Shigeki Kikkawa
Beholder rallied Saturday to win the Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Beholder did not need a brilliant performance Saturday in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita to move toward the Breeder’s Cup.

All she needed was to run well. Mission accomplished.

Beholder ($2.80) scored a workmanlike comeback victory, winning the $300,000 race by three-quarters of a length. The pacesetting Tiz Midnight finished second, 3 1/4 lengths in front of Iotapa, whose chances were compromised by a poor start.

Beholder, trained by Richard Mandella, was racing for the first time since she was injured June 7 in a race at Belmont Park. Over a Santa Anita surface that produced slow times, Beholder pressed the pace three wide, took the lead turning for home, and won the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:42.19.

Mike Smith was riding Beholder for the first time in a race. “We were worried about her getting a little tired, and she did,” Smith said. “The track definitely is slower. You’re going to get tired on it.”

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The win by Beholder, her 10th from 15 starts, should set her up for the BC Distaff on Oct. 31, a race she won last year. Beholder also won the BC Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita in 2012.

While Beholder always figured for a three-wide trip pressing the pace, the complexion changed entirely for Iotapa. Instead of her expected role as pacesetter, she broke slowly and was unable to recover.

“She’s always a little tight in [the gate], and this time, she was more tight than usual,” jockey Joe Talamo said. “She just broke slow.”

Iotapa passed Yahilwa late to salvage third place as the 2-1 second favorite.

Tiz Midnight benefitted from the slow start by Iotapa and was able to set the pace through fractions of 46.55 seconds and 1:10.34. After being passed by Beholder into the stretch, she tried to battle back and was cutting into the winner’s margin at the wire.

“She’s learning how to run,” Tiz Midnight’s trainer, Bob Baffert, said. “I got excited when she made that run.”

The order of finish was completed by Yahilwa and Wittgenstein. Tiz the Key was scratched early in the day.