02/28/2013 4:11PM

Santa Anita: Beholder back fully healthy for Las Virgenes


ARCADIA, Calif. – The champion juvenile filly of 2012 has a chance to redeem herself in front-running fashion Saturday at Santa Anita.

Beholder was compromised by a throat ulcer her first start of 2013, a fizzling runner-up finish Jan. 21 as the odds-on favorite in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez. All will be forgiven if she wires the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday.

Eight entered the $250,000 Las Virgenes, and while Beholder deserves top billing, she faces a serious new challenger in Fiftyshadesofhay.

Those two will attract most of the attention in a mile race that will define the lineup for the Santa Anita Oaks on April 6.

Beholder last year won 3 of 5, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and trained like a filly who would win her 2013 debut in the 6 1/2-furlong Santa Ynez. Hammered to 1-5, she finished second by three-quarters of a length while earning a low 73 Beyer Speed Figure.

Trainer Richard Mandella was puzzled until a post-race exam revealed a small ulcer in the back of her throat that Mandella believes provides a reasonable alibi. Beholder was treated with antibiotics and her throat was flushed. She did not miss significant training.

“Hardly any, because she just ran,” Mandella said. “We didn’t need to do much. We were able to give her an easy week. It worked out perfect. She responded fast.”

Mandella is confident the real Beholder will show up Saturday, and her works support his confidence. Beholder concluded her preparation Feb. 24 working five furlongs in 59.60 seconds. Mandella said the work “was actually more than we wanted. She did it so nice, like good horses do.”

Garrett Gomez rides Beholder, who is expected to set the Las Virgenes pace. Her main rival will be in close pursuit.

Fiftyshadesofhay enters the Las Virgenes as the “now” filly and a worthy upset candidate based on her Jan. 26 romp in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel. It was the sixth start of her career, but the first time she ran fast. She earned a 90 Beyer.

“She reminds me a lot of Real Quiet. She’s slowly maturing,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “We were always high on her but every time she went to the gate she would get really hot. She was sort of falling apart. Now she’s getting older, and she’s getting better.”

Fiftyshadesofhay lost her first three starts before wiring maidens Nov. 22 at Betfair Hollywood Park. She finished nowhere in a subsequent turf race, then put it all together with a romping 5 3/4-length win in the Santa Ysabel.

“She’s starting to fill out. You can see her developing,” Baffert said. Fiftyshadesofhay was sired by Pulpit, and produced by the Real Quiet mare Quiet Kim. Racing one mile Saturday under Rafael Bejarano, Fiftyshadesofhay will just be getting warmed up.

“Distance is not going to be a problem for her at all. The farther, the better,” Baffert said.

Other starters include late-runner Scarlet Strike, maiden winner Lady Asano, and Santa Ynez upset winner Renee’s Titan. Heir Kitty, Ridingwiththedevil, and Speedinthruthecity also entered.

The Las Virgenes is race 6 and the first leg in the pick six.