03/02/2013 7:28PM

Santa Anita: Beholder regains best form in Las Virgenes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Last year's champion 2-year-old filly Beholder, ridden by Garrett Gomez, scores by 3 3/4 lengths in the Las Virgenes.

ARCADIA, Calif. – After a brief hiccup, Beholder is back.

Compromised by an ulcer in her throat in her first start of the year, Beholder returned to her best form on Saturday at Santa Anita, leading her seven rivals on a fruitless chase as she romped to a 3 3/4-length victory in the Grade 1, $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

The race re-established Beholder, last year’s champion 2-year-old filly, as the leader of her division, a position she attained when winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies here last fall. Also, it provided significant points toward a berth in the Kentucky Oaks on May 3, a race Beholder will target after next month’s Santa Anita Oaks.

The Las Virgenes was the third win in the last four starts for Beholder, the only interruption being a second-place finish in the 6 1/2-furlong Santa Ynez Stakes on Jan. 21. Richard Mandella, the trainer of Beholder, said she had come out of that race with a throat ulcer, and her four subsequent works indicated she was ready for her best.

“Because of the race, she didn’t miss much time,” Mandella said. “She’ll train all you want.”

Beholder ($3.60), the favorite, broke sharply under Garrett Gomez and set comfortable fractions of 23.78 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 47.55 seconds for a half-mile, and 1:11.19 for six furlongs en route to a final time of 1:36.14 for one mile on the fast main track.

Second-choice Fiftyshadesofhay, second for much of the race, held the place by 1 1/2 lengths over Scarlet Strike, who rallied from seventh to finish third. Heir Kitty was fourth and was followed, in order, by Speedinthruthecity, Ridingwiththedevil, Lady Asano, and Renee’s Titan.

Beholder is quirky. She was rambunctious when schooling in the paddock on Thursday, and two weeks ago got stirred up in her stall, resulting in cuts to her face. When she showed up in the paddock for the Las Virgenes, she looked like she had been in a back-alley fight. But she was becalmed in the paddock, saving her energy for when it counted.

“Everything she did today was great,” said Mandella, who trains Beholder for the Spendthrift Farm of B. Wayne Hughes. “She was a handful a couple of days ago when we schooled her.”

Beholder, by Henny Hughes, has now won 4 of 7 starts. The $150,000 first prize increased her earnings to $1,395,000.