09/25/2014 10:29AM

Iotapa takes shot at Beholder in Zenyatta

Emily Shields
Beholder (third from right) makes her first start in Saturday's Zenyatta since running fourth in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park. She came out of the race with an injury to a pastern.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Iotapa has won back-to-back Grade 1 races, yet she will play second fiddle when Beholder returns Saturday in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita.

“I have all the respect for the other mare,” said Iotapa’s trainer, John Sadler. “But we’re not going down without a fight.”

Iotapa and Beholder are the principals in the 1 1/16-mile Zenyatta, race 5 on an 11-race card. Six fillies and mares were entered in the $300,000 race, including the stakes-placed Yahilwa, and the allowance-caliber Tiz Midnight, Tiz the Key, and Wittgenstein.

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The race centers on the sharp Iotapa and two-time champion Beholder, who is racing for the first time since June 7. Beholder missed the summer after scraping her left hind pastern nearly to the bone while finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps, won by Close Hatches.

With Beholder on the sidelines, Iotapa has emerged as California’s division leader. She won the Grade 1 Vanity at Santa Anita by more than 10 lengths and the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch on the Polytrack at Del Mar by a half-length. Her competition in both races was modest.

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“She might have taken the opportunity to fill in when a couple others were out,” Sadler said, acknowledging Beholder’s absence. “We’re in with a very good horse, but my mare is doing great, and I think she’s better on dirt.”

Beholder defeated Iotapa in their only previous meeting in the 2013 Santa Anita Oaks.

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Beholder (Last 3 Beyers: 101-98-95)

◗ Mike Smith will ride Beholder for the first time, replacing Gary Stevens. After he worked Beholder on Sunday, Smith said: “She was brilliant. She was good, seriously good.”

◗ Although her comeback training stalled in late August when she reopened the wound from the Belmont race, Mandella said Beholder is ready. She missed one week of training.

“I do wish I had two more weeks after what happened, but I don’t,” he said. “I don’t think she needs it. I think she’s ready.”

◗ Beholder can ration her speed. “Even when she was young, we never trained this filly on the lead,” Mandella said. “Throughout her whole life, she’ll go three-eighths in 38 or a half in 50.”

◗ Beholder is 7 for 8 at Santa Anita, including Breeders’ Cup wins in the 2012 Juvenile Fillies and 2013 Distaff. She was named a champion in both seasons.

◗ Beholder has won nine races and $3,188,300 from 14 starts.

◗ Beholder, owned by B. Wayne Hughes’s Spendthrift Farm, is entered in the Fasig-Tipton November sale on Nov. 3.

Iotapa (Last 3 Beyers: 93-109-74)

◗ Iotapa has won three of her last four routes and could be the one to catch under Joe Talamo.

“I’d like to see her in front, kind of like the race she ran in the Vanity,” Sadler said. “That would be the ideal scenario.”

◗ Iotapa, owned by Hronis Stable, also is entered in the Fasig-Tipton November sale. A decision on whether to sell her or race her another year will be made after the Breeders’ Cup.

◗ Claimed for $50,000 from her debut, she has won six races and $796,796 from 12 starts.

Yahilwa (Last 3 Beyers: 82-82-71)

◗ Yahilwa is eligible to the second allowance condition, but her runner-up finish four starts back in the Grade 3 Adoration Stakes at Santa Anita gives her an outside look.

◗ She is trained by Jim Cassidy; Rafael Bejarano will ride.