Blinded in one eye since a school yard incident as a youngster, trainer John Shirreffs' brilliant Hard Not to Love seeks her fourth consecutive win as she heads a field of seven older fillies and mares in the Grade I, $400,000 Beholder Mile at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, March 14.
With two graded stakes wins at the current Winter Meet, the most recent a 3 ½ length romp in the Grade II Santa Monica Stakes at seven furlongs, the Ontario, Canadian-bred daughter of Hard Spun will be trying two turns for the first time in what will be the 80th running of the Beholder Mile, formerly known as the Vanity Handicap when run at Hollywood Park beginning in 1940.
Hard Not to Love's primary opposition would appear to be John Sadler's Grade I winning Ollie's Candy and Bob Baffert's multiple graded stakes placed Mother Mother, who has been beaten by the top selection in two out of her last three starts.
||Hard Not to Love
||Drayden Van Dyke
HARD NOT TO LOVE
A winner of five out of her six career starts, she is unbeaten in her last three races, all with Mike Smith aboard. Due to the fact she lost sight in her left eye in a paddock mishap as a youngster, Hard Not to Love, according to Shirreffs, is easily unnerved by stimuli that she does not see initially.
As a result, she's had a tendency to whip her head in the direction of something she perceives to be there, creating considerable challenges both in morning training and afternoon post parades. With her breakthrough effort coming in a 2 ¼ length score in the Grade I, seven furlong La Brea Stakes here on Dec. 28 at odds of 11-1, Hard Not to Love was again all business in winning the Grade II Santa Monica on Feb. 15.
Out of the Vindication mare Loving Vindication, her stalk and pounce style sprinting should serve her well on the stretch-out Saturday.
Owner: Mercedes Stables, LLC, West Point Thoroughbreds, Scott Dilworth, Dorothy Ingordo, David Ingordo & Steve Mooney | Trainer: John Shirreffs
Idle since a respectable fourth, beaten six lengths in the Grade I Breeders' Cup Distaff here on Nov. 2, this 5-year-old homebred mare by Candy Ride won the Grade I Clement Hirsch Stakes going a mile and one sixteenth three starts back at Del Mar on July 28 and followed that up with a close third in the Grade II Zenyatta Stakes at the same distance here on Sept. 29.
Originally trained by William Morey, she was a Grade II stakes winner at age three and will be making her sixth start for Sadler on Saturday. With a solid work tab in hand, she'll be seeking her second Grade I win off a four-month freshening.
Owner: Paul & Karen Eggert | Trainer: John Sadler
Attentive to the pace, this 4-year-old filly by Pioneerof the Nile was no match for Hard Not to Love late in the Santa Monica, finishing second by 3 ½ lengths. A sharp 1 ¼ length winner of the ungraded Kalookan Queen going 6 ½ furlongs two starts back on Jan. 12, Mother Mother was third, beaten 3 ¼ by Hard Not to Love three starts back in the Grade I La Brea Dec. 28.
A minor stakes winner going a one turn mile at Churchill Downs in her third start in October, 2018, her best two turn effort came on Dec. 8, 2018, when she was third, beaten a neck in the Grade I Starlet Stakes going 1 1/16 miles at Los Alamitos. With three solid recent races to her credit, Mother Mother would appear poised to spring an upset in what will be her 12th career start.
Owner: Gainesway Stable (Anthony Beck), Old Bones Racing Stable, LLC, Barry Hall, Barry Lipman & Mark Mathiesen | Trainer: Bob Baffert