04/06/2013 4:49PM

Santa Anita Oaks goes to Beholder

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Benoit & Associates
Beholder, with Garrett Gomez riding, goes wire to wire in the Santa Anita Oaks.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Beholder was allowed to set the pace in Saturday’s $300,250 Santa Anita Oaks, a strategy that worked spectacularly and has made the 2-year-old champion filly of 2012 unbeatable around two turns in her career.

Leading by as much as two lengths in the first six furlongs, Beholder ($2.60) was hand-ridden through the stretch of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks, winning by 2 3/4 lengths over the former maiden claimer Iotapa.

Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Beholder ran 1 1-16 miles in 1:43.16, winning the third stakes of her career.

“One of her weapons is speed,” Gomez said.

“She settled in very well. She left there like a shot. I gave it a jump or two to see what the others would do. I decided to go over [to the inside], see what happens and go from there.”

Beholder set an early pace of 23.61 and 47.14 seconds. She led by two lengths after six furlongs in 1:10.97 and had an advantage of 3 1/2 lengths with a furlong remaining.

Owned by B. Wayne Hughes and trained by Richard Mandella, Beholder will make her next start in the Kentucky Oaks over 1 1/8 miles at Churchill Downs on May 3.

Beholder has won three Grade 1 races around two turns. Last November, she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies here over 1 1/16 miles. On March 2, she won the Las Virgenes Stakes over a mile. Beholder has won 5 of 8 starts and $1,575,000.

Fiftyshadesofhay was second in the Las Virgenes, and finished third in the Santa Anita Oaks, three lengths behind the winner. Spellbound was fourth, followed by Could Be Trouble and Black Witch in the field of six 3-year-old fillies.

Gomez, the only jockey to ride Beholder, said the filly will be tested over the Kentucky Oaks distance, which will be the longest of her career. He maintains she is game enough to be a factor.

“She was pretty honest,” he said of the Santa Anita Oaks performance.  “I don’t know how much more that I had, but she’s fought for me before.”