WITH THROAT PROBLEM ADDRESSED, ECLIPSE CHAMP BEHOLDER CRUSHES FOES IN GRADE I LAS VIRGENES

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 2, 2013)—The champ is back. Beholder, Eclipse Champion 2-year-old filly for 2012, made amends for an odds-on flop in the Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes on Jan. 21 with a powerful gate to wire win in Saturday’s Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita, winning by 3 ¾ lengths under Garrett Gomez while negotiating one mile in 1:36.14.

Trained by Richard Mandella and owned by B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm LLC, Beholder exited the Santa Ynez with what was diagnosed as a throat ulcer, which no doubt inhibited her breathing.

“It bothered her a lot,” said Mandella. “Imagine trying to run with a sore in your throat. Everything she did today was great. She’s a great filly. We’ll enjoy this today, but plans are for her to run next in the Santa Anita Oaks (Grade I, 1 1/16 miles, April 6).”

Breaking from post position five in an eight-horse field, Beholder, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Henny Hughes, established a one-length advantage into the Club House turn and remained clear through fractions of 23.78, 47.55, 1:11.19 and 1:23.39.

“It was a whole different feeling today,” said Gomez. “She did everything beautiful. She traveled beautifully, when I asked her to quicken, she quickened. I couldn’t have asked her to do anything better for me. She’s back!”

Beholder paid $3.60, $2.40 and $2.10. With the winner’s share of $150,000, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner increased her earnings to $1,395,000 from a record of 7-4-2-0.

Runner-up Fiftyshadesofhay sat second to the winner throughout and was the only other horse in single digits, off at 9-5 under Rafael Bejarano.

“I tried to go to the lead, but the favorite just had so much speed,” said Bejarano. “She’s a nice horse and I did the best I could.”

Fiftyshadesofhay, who finished 1 ½ lengths in front of Scarlet Strike, paid $2.80 and $2.40.

Off at 12-1, Scarlet Strike, ridden by Mike Smith, had two horses beat going into the first turn and rallied from next to last leaving the half mile pole to finish third, three quarters of a length in front of Heir Kitty and Julien Leparoux.

“I had a great trip,” said Smith. “No excuses. I was hoping for a little more pace up front, but other than that, she ran extremely well.”

Scarlet Strike paid $3.20 to show.

Both Mandella and Gomez picked up their second career wins in the Las Virgenes, which was run for the 31st time.

Run as Saturday’s sixth race, the Las Virgenes is the first of three Grade I offerings at Santa Anita, with the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (turf) carded as the ninth and the Santa Anita Handicap slotted as the 10th.