06/02/2016 1:30PM

Degree of difficulty increases for Beholder

Shigeki Kikkawa
Beholder won the Adoration with ease last month, but she'll get a stiffer test in the Vanity Mile on Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Beholder faces new challenges Saturday at Santa Anita, including a shorter distance and tougher competition. One thing that has not changed is the high expectations.

Beholder is expected to win the Grade 1 Vanity, a $400,000 race shortened from 1 1/8 miles to one mile and the first start of the season for 2015 champion 3-year-old filly Stellar Wind.

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Seven fillies and mares were entered in the Vanity, though Taris could scratch. That would leave Beholder, Stellar Wind, Divina Comedia, All Star Bub, and Grade 2-winning sprinters Lost Bus and Finest City.

“It’s a good race with real horses,” Beholder’s trainer, Richard Mandella, said. “Not just [Stellar Wind], but one of those sprinters might stretch out. You don’t know.”

What is certain is Beholder’s status as one of the country’s top older horses. She has won seven straight, 16 of 21 overall, more than $4.4 million for owner B. Wayne Hughes, and has trained with enthusiasm since an easy comeback win last month at 1 1/16 miles.

All of which makes Stellar Wind’s trainer, John Sadler, a realist. Stellar Wind has worked very well for her first start since a runner-up finish last fall in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, but she faces a tall order in the Vanity.

“[Stellar Wind] is training great. We’re ready to go,” Sadler said. “If she runs a good second, I’d be happy. Beholder is not just the best mare. She is one of the best horses. She’s on everybody’s list.”

Taris, the romping winner of the Grade 1, seven-furlong Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs, could skip the Vanity and wait for the Grade 1, seven-furlong Triple Bend on June 25.

“We want to keep our options open, but I think most likely we’re going to wait,” trainer Simon Callaghan said. “The Triple Bend is our preferred option.”

Two turns on dirt is new for Finest City and Lost Bus. Finest City won a Grade 2 sprint last out; Lost Bus won a Grade 2 sprint in January. Lost Bus likely will set the pace.

“I think she can go a mile,” Lost Bus’s trainer, Gary Sherlock, said. “I don’t have the audacity to think I can beat Beholder, but it’s Grade 1 placing for a lot of money.”


Beholder, by Henny Hughes

Last 3 Beyers: 89-99-114

◗ Beholder won her comeback last month with speed to spare. Since then, Mandella has tightened the screws. Sandwiched between two easy works was a bullet five-furlong drill May 25.

“She’s ready for a good race now,” Mandella said this week, declining to speculate on a summer campaign. “Everything is on the table; [the Vanity] is the important goal for the short term.”

◗ Last summer at Del Mar, Beholder’s two wins included a romp against males in the Pacific Classic.

◗ Gary Stevens rides Beholder, a 6-year-old whose mannerisms have softened slightly, according to Mandella.

“She has her moments, but not like she used to be,” he said. “It used to be if you sneezed, it was like lighting a bomb.”

Stellar Wind, by Curlin

Last 3 Beyers: 98-94-91

◗ Though she has not started since October, Stellar Wind is dead fit, according to Sadler.

“A mile is a good jumping-off point,” said Sadler, who called Stellar Wind “a natural distance horse.”

“Her optimal distance is probably a mile and an eighth,” he said. “A mile is probably a little short, but she should be fit.”

◗ Last season at age 3 under regular rider Victor Espinoza, Stellar Wind won four graded stakes, including the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks. Her best performance was a runner-up finish by a neck in the BC Distaff.

◗ The long-term goal for Stellar Wind is the 2016 BC Distaff at Santa Anita, but Sadler did not rule out shipping for a race before then. If she stays home, she might run into Beholder again on July 30 at Del Mar in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch.

◗ Espinoza will be aboard Saturday.

Finest City, by City Zip

Last 3 Beyers: 97-77-77

◗ Ian Kruljac trains Finest City, the upset winner of the Grade 2 Great Lady M. at 6 1/2 furlongs last out.

Lost Bus, by Bring the Heat

Last 3 Beyers: 96-90-95

◗ Third in the Great Lady M., she figures to set the pace under Fernando Perez.