Dual champion filly Beholder coasted to an easy win in her 2014 debut on a hot, sunny Easter Sunday at Santa Anita Park, taking the $75,000 Santa Lucia Stakes from four overmatched rivals April 20.
Trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella and owned by B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift Farm, the reigning champion 3-year-old filly settled into a comfortable second under Gary Stevens and tracked pacesetter Legacy before engaging the front-runner into the far turn. Under top weight of 123 pounds, she effortlessly dispatched that filly at the quarter pole and drew off to a facile 5 ¼-length victory while geared down nearing the finish line.
A supplemental entrant at a cost of $1,500, the 4-year-old filly by Henny Hughes won as the overwhelming 1-9 favorite and covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.67 on a fast track for a fourth consecutive win and ninth overall from 13 career starts. With three second-place finishes to her credit, Beholder has finished first or second in 12 of her starts.
"She's had a really good winter; she's matured," Stevens said.
The Santa Lucia also served as a prep for the $1 million Ogden Phipps at the same distance on the Belmont Stakes undercard June 7 at Belmont Park.
Winner of the 2012 Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita to clinch 2-year-old filly honors, Beholder was voted a second Eclipse Award as 2013 champion 3-year-old filly after capping the season with a 4 ¼-length win the Breeders' Cup Distaff Nov. 1 at the Arcadia, Calif., track. The season also included grade I victories in the Santa Anita Oaks, Las Virgenes and Zenyatta Stakes and a runner-up finish in the Longines Kentucky Oaks.
Legacy finished best of the rest in the Santa Lucia, and Irish Presence checked in another 4 ¾ lengths back in third, followed by Moulin de Mougin and City At Dawn to complete the order of finish. All others carried 117 pounds, six pounds less than Beholder, under the Santa Lucia's allowance conditions.
Eblouissante, a half sister to legendary Zenyatta, was scratched as was Magic Union.
Beholder paid a $2.20, $2.10 and $2.10 and Legacy returned $4 and $2.60. Irish Presence brought $3.
Beholder was bred in Kentucky by Clarkland Farm out of the stakes-winning Tricky Creek mare Leslie's Lady, also the dam of Grade 1 winner and sire Into Mischief, by Harlan's Holiday. Spendthrift acquired Beholder for $180,000 from Clarkland's consignment at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale. She has bankrolled $3,123,300.