09/28/2013 8:00PM

Zenyatta Stakes: Beholder makes winning look easy

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Benoit & Associates
Beholder, ridden by Gary Stevens, wins the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Beholder won the fourth Grade 1 race of her career in Saturday’s $250,000 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita, giving trainer Richard Mandella an opportunity to issue a subtle challenge to others pointing fillies and mares to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff here on Nov. 2.

“She’s a filly that loves a fight,” he said.

Beholder barely kicked up the dust to win the Zenyatta over 1 1/16 miles. Ridden by a confident Gary Stevens, Beholder ($5.20) led throughout, holding a three-length lead with a furlong remaining and winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Authenticity, a 9-2 shot.

The champion 2-year-old filly of 2012, Beholder was timed in 1:42.11, winning her third Grade 1 race of 2013. Earlier this year, she won two Grade 1 races for 3-year-old fillies during the winter-spring meeting here – the Las Virgenes Stakes and Santa Anita Oaks. In May, Beholder was second to the brilliant Princess of Sylmar in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.

The Zenyatta was Beholder’s first start against older fillies and mares.

Stevens had Beholder in front by a length over Include Me Out through an opening quarter-mile of 23.73 seconds. Beholder led by a length over Joyful Victory after a half-mile in 47.36 seconds.

Beholder’s lead was down to a half-length on the turn when she moved clear of her six rivals entering the stretch. Stevens said he has seen similar moves in morning workouts.

“She does that in the morning when she switches leads coming off the turn,” Stevens said. “She lunges.

“We get along pretty good. I just try to stay out of her way.”

Authenticity, the winner of graded stakes at Churchill Downs and Saratoga earlier this year, finished 2 1/4 lengths in front of Joyful Victory, who won the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational here in March.

Flashy American was fourth, followed by More Chocolate, Via Villaggio, and Include Me Out.

Beholder has won 7 of 11 starts and $1,975,000 for owner B. Wayne Hughes, who celebrated his 80th birthday on Saturday.

By Henny Hughes, Beholder has won 5 of 6 career starts at Santa Anita, including the BC Juvenile Fillies here last November. She earned a fees-paid berth to the BC Distaff for her win in the Zenyatta through the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In Program.

The BC Distaff will be Beholder’s second start at 1 1/8 miles, preceded by the loss in the Kentucky Oaks. The added distance does not concern the ever-optimistic Stevens.

 “I haven’t gotten to the bottom of her,” Stevens said. “Maybe there is not as much there as I think, but it feels there is another gear there.”