Three-time champion Beholder found herself in a familiar spot on Saturday – the Santa Anita Park winner’s circle – after yet another effortless win, this time in the $400,000 Vanity Mile (G1).

Making just her second start of the year, the popular bay mare was sent off the prohibitive 1-5 favorite against four rivals and broke quickly from the gate when the doors opened. However, sprinter Lost Bus, who was stretching out to a mile for the first time since last November, gunned it when the starter hit the button and wound up in front.

Jockey Gary Stevens angled Beholder off the rail and sent the Henny Hughes mare up to Lost Bus’ outside. The early pacesetter quickly slowed things down as, despite the quick start, the first quarter passed in a pedestrian :25.03 and the half-mile went in :49.31.

The slow early fractions never fazed Beholder, who continued loping along under a strong hold from Stevens down the backstretch. Meanwhile Stellar Wind, the 2015 champion three-year-old filly who was making her first start since a neck second in last November’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), found herself blocked behind the two front runners and inside of Finest City and Divina Comedia.

Stellar Wind made her way outside rounding the turn, but Beholder had already floated right on by Lost Bus to take command. Stevens shook the reins at his mount and Beholder romped home to finish eight furlongs on the fast main track in 1:39.97.

Beholder returned $2.40 for the win, which saw Stellar Wind in second by 1 1/2 lengths. Finest City followed by another three parts of a length while Lost Bus and Divina Comedia completed the order under the wire. Taris was scratched in favor of facing the boys in the June 25 Triple Bend (G1) and All Star Bub was also withdrawn.

Beholder is now 17-3-0 from 22 lifetime starts and has banked $4,736,600 In lifetime earnings. She boasts 10 Grade 1 victories – including the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, 2013 Breeders’ Cup Distaff and last year’s Pacific Classic against the boys – and three Eclipse Awards as champion two-year-old filly (2012), champion three-year-old filly (2013) and champion older mare (2015).

Bred in Kentucky by Clarkland Farm, the six-year-old is campaigned by B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm. She is out of the stakes-winning Tricky Creek mare Leslie’s Lady, making her a half-sister to Grade 1 scorer and successful sire Into Mischief.

Beholder photo courtesy of Benoit Photos

VANITY MILE QUOTES

Gary Stevens, jockey Beholder, winner: “It changes every time. If someone told me before the race that we would go in twenty-five for the first quarter I would say ‘no way.’ I thought we would go in sub twenty-three, forty-five and change for the second and I thought the final time would be under 1:34. Twenty-five is legit, forty-nine is legit, but I think that’s the fastest last three-eighths I’ve ever run in my life and she was lovin’ every minute of it.

“She’s like family to me. I don’t spend as much time with her as (trainer) Richard (Mandella) does and everyone at the barn but she’s very special to me. She’s the best thing I ever have ridden, or I ever will ride. I’m blessed to be on her back.”

Victor Espinoza, jockey Stellar Wind, second: “She ran an awesome race. I expected her to run well, but not as well as she did today. This one will prove big for the next one. I’m excited for her. She came back better than before. She had a little more focus in the race, and everything went right today.”

Richard Mandella, trainer Beholder, winner: “Just another great effort. She continues to amaze us all. There was a time when we didn’t think she’d go long. She seems to adjust to what we’re doing. I’m lucky to experience something that very few people in history have – to have a great horse this long. Good horses come along, and there are a few great ones, but to be great and stay great, it really is special. There’s something very special about her.”

“I almost wondered if it was a mistake when I saw :25. I didn’t think you could do that. But you’ve seen her work. She’ll work really slow if we want, and she’ll work fast if we want. She’s really turned into a professional.”

B. Wayne Hughes, owner Beholder, winner: “I’m glad Richard took my advice – to win. This means a lot to us.

“It was a very nice effort and I’m glad the pressure is off. Every time everyone expects your horse to win, I think it adds pressure. No real unbelievable news will happen, unless you lose.

“I’ve had a lot of great horses, but not like this. I don’t think this will ever happen to me again. I just heard Gary say she’s the best horse he’s ever ridden and she might well be. She’s definitely the best horse I’ve ever owned; maybe the best horse anyone has ever owned.

“I’ll consider bringing her back at seven only if she’s perfect. She’s better this year than she was last year. She’s bigger, stronger and faster. They put the girth on her and she’s bigger and she loves it so who am I to interfere with her having a good time.

“I thought the pace was going to be blazing hot at the beginning and it wasn’t and I don’t know exactly why. Once I saw that she was positioned, I wasn’t worried. She’s a difficult horse to beat.

“If the boys show up, I’ll take on the boys again.

“Mainly it’s the Breeders’ Cup in November as the main goal. The Pacific Classic (G1) is our intention right now but I don’t know the dates of everything, I’m just happy with her winning a race. Even though I take credit for it, Richard makes all the decisions.”