by Mike Willman/Santa Anita | 05.30.2018 | 5:32pm
Unique Bella got the best of Paradise Woods in the La Brea Stakes last December at Santa Anita
With 13 group or graded stakes victories among them, Unique Bella, Vale Dori and Paradise Woods need little in the way of introduction as they headline Saturday’s Grade I, $400,000 Beholder Mile at Santa Anita. The Beholder Mile, formerly run as the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park from 1940 through 2013, has attracted a field of six fillies and mares three and up and will be contested for the 78th time on Saturday.
With five graded stakes wins to her credit, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s Unique Bella comes off a second-place finish in the Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap on April 13 at Oaklawn Park and returns home to a fast track over which she’s posted five graded tallies, including a win in the Grade I La Brea Stakes on Dec. 26.
A winner of four graded stakes here, including the Grade I Santa Margarita in March 2017, Bob Baffert’s Argentine-bred Vale Dori was second to multiple Eclipse Champion Stellar Wind in last year’s Beholder.
A freakish 11 3/4-length winner of last year’s Grade I Santa Anita Oaks, Richard Mandella’s Paradise Woods is a two-time Grade I winner here who was a close second to Unique Bella going seven furlongs two starts back in the Grade I La Brea Stakes Dec. 26.
Owner: Don Alberto Stable; Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
With six wins and a second-place finish from seven starts at Santa Anita, this grey daughter is obviously well at home in Arcadia. A dazzling 8 ¾ winner of her only try at one mile, the Grade II Las Virgenes, seven starts back on Feb. 5, 2017, she was a nine-length winner of the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles Santa Maria when last seen locally two starts back on Feb. 10. A 4-year-old Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Tapit, this striking grey likes to be free-running on the lead but has proven she can stalk the early pace if necessary. Second, beaten 2 1/4 lengths at odds of 1-5 while dealing with wet conditions in the April 13 Apple Blossom, look for Hollendorfer’s pride and joy to rebound Saturday with a big effort. With an overall mark of 10-7-2-0, Unique Bella has earnings of $852,400.
Owner: Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum; Trainer: Bob Baffert
Idle from July 30, 2017 prior to running fifth, beaten 5 3/4 lengths by upstart Fault in the Grade III, 1 1/16-mile Adoration Stakes here May 6, look for the Argentine-bred mare to run a much-improved race in her second start off the long vacation. A Group I winner at age three in Argentina, this 6-year-old mare has won five graded stakes for Baffert and she’ll be making her 13 start for him on Saturday. With most of her wins accomplished in front-running fashion, she’ll no doubt be forwardly placed in the Beholder, a race in which she finished second, beaten a neck by Stellar Wind a year ago. With Mike Smith opting to stick with Unique Bella, Vale Dori will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, who has guided her to four wins from seven tries, including her Grade I score in the 2017 Santa Margarita Stakes. With two wins and as many seconds, Vale Dori is 17-9-5-1 overall with earnings of $1,136,943.
Owner: Steven Sarkowsky and Pam and Martin J. Wygod; Trainer: Richard Mandella
Like Unique Bella and Vale Dori, Paradise Woods is also blessed with an abundance of natural speed. An 11 ¾ length winner of last year’s Grade I Santa Anita Oaks, she was subsequently a disappointing 11th as the 6-5 favorite in the Kentucky Oaks, after which she was freshened by Mandella. Following a disappointing sixth place run as the 1-5 favorite in the Grade III Torrey Pines Stakes Aug. 27, she rebounded with a stirring 5 ¼ length win, accomplished in gate to wire fashion, in the Grade I, 1 1/16 miles Zenyatta Stakes here four starts back on Sept. 30. Third in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Distaff Nov. 3, she ran a tenacious second, beaten three quarters of a length by Unique Bella in the Grade I, seven furlong La Brea Stakes two starts back on Dec. 26. Although a well beaten fourth by Selcourt in the Grade II, seven-furlong Santa Monica Stakes on March 24, Paradise Woods, a 4-year-old daughter of Union Rags, enters the Beholder fresh and on the heels of an exceptional work tab. With regular rider Flavien Prat engaged, she’s 9-3-2-1 overall with earnings of $725,545.
GRADE I BEHOLDER MILE Field. For fillies and mares three-year-old and up at one mile on dirt at Santa Anita Park. Purse $400,.000.
|1||Munny Spunt||Kyle Frey||Doug O’Neill||30/1|
|2||Mopostism||Geovanni Franco||Doug O’Neill||15/1|
|3||La Force||Drayden Van Dyke||Patrick Gallagher||20/1|
|4||Paradise Woods||Flavien Prat||Richard Mandella||2/1|
|5||Vale Dori||Rafael Bejarano||Bob Baffert||4/1|
|6||Unique Bella||Mike Smith||Jerry Hollendorfe||3/5|
First post time for a 10-race card on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10 a.m. For additional racing information, please visit santaanita.com.