10/01/2016 7:45PM

Stellar Wind, en route to BC Distaff, rules Beholder again

Benoit & Associates
Stellar Wind defeats Beholder by a neck in the Zenyatta Stakes.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Stellar Wind had Beholder’s number in summer. Stellar Wind also has Beholder’s number in fall.

In a virtual replay of a Grade 1 two months ago at Del Mar, Stellar Wind wore down Beholder in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita, winning by a neck and establishing herself as California's top older female headed to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

“That mare has my number,” Beholder’s trainer Richard Mandella said. “I have to switch numbers. Beholder ran her heart out.”

Beholder broke running from the inside post, and was pressured by Tara’s Tango and Stellar Wind. Gary Stevens, riding Beholder, had no option but go on with it.

“I would have liked to switch positions,” Stevens said. “I would have liked to have switched positions at Del Mar. It’s just tough getting beat on her.”

Stellar Wind, trained by John Sadler, pressed her way to victory over Beholder in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch in July at Del Mar, a race some chalked up as an aberration. Turns out, it was anything but.

On Saturday at Santa Anita, Stellar Wind was three-wide forwardly placed, pressing the pace outside Tara’s Tango. When that rival gave way into the far turn, Stellar Wind engaged Beholder. It appeared jockey Victor Espinoza was working hard to keep Stellar Wind close to Beholder.

"He has to do that," Sadler said. "You can't let Beholder cruise along."

Stellar Wind took the fight to Beholder, and the two fillies locked up at the quarter pole. They raced head and head to deep stretch before Stellar Wind inched clear to win by a neck. She paid $6 as the second choice. It was 11 3/4 lengths back to third-place finisher Vale Dori.

Tara’s Tango and Off the Road finished fourth and fifth.

“I hope now we get some respect,” assistant trainer Larry Benavediz said. They’ll get more than that if they're able to score another upset Nov. 4 in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The Distaff will be the fourth meeting between Stellar Wind and Beholder (Stellar Wind has a 2-1 edge). Songbird, the undefeated 3-year-old filly, will be waiting in the wings.

Mandella said immediately after the Zenyatta that Beholder would start in the Distaff.

Tara’s Tango’s trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said “it would be my guess” that Tara’s Tango would shorten up and run next in the BC Filly and Mare Sprint.

The final time of the Zenyatta was fast, 1:41.80.