SANTA ANITA PARK - 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 ¾ 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.
||La Force (GER)
||Drayden Van Dyke
||Vale Dori (ARG)
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 ¼ 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: Don Alberto Stable | Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
Idle from July 30, 2017 prior to running fifth, beaten 5 ¾ lengths by upstart Fault in the Grade III, 1 1/16 miles 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: Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum | Trainer: Bob Baffert
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.
Owner: Steven Sarkowsky and Pam and Martin J. Wygod | Trainer: Richard Mandella
Beholder Mile History
The event was inaugurated in 1940 as the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park Racetrack in Inglewood, California over the current distance of one mile.
In 1968 Gamely won carrying a record weight for a winner of 131 pounds in the race. Her owner William Haggin Perry had the three placegetters in the race which carried a record high stakes amount for the fillies and mares of $79,650.
Originally an open handicap for fillies and mares aged three years and up, in 1987 it was changed to an invitational handicap for selected fillies and mares. Over the next three decades, the race switched between open handicap and invitational handicap formats. Following the closure of Hollywood Park, the race moved to Santa Anita Park in 2014. In that same year, the event was changed from the handicap format to a weight-for-age race with allowances for horses who had not recently won a graded stakes race.
In 2016 it was announced that the race would be renamed the Vanity Mile and the distance reduced accordingly. In 2017 it was announced that the race would be renamed after the Champion Mare Beholder.
The race is normally run on dirt, except between 2007 and 2013 when Hollywood Park used a synthetic Cushion Track surface.
The race was not run in 1942 and 1943 due to wartime restrictions.