ZENYATTA IS ONE OF FIVE GRADE I BREEDERS’ CUP ‘WIN & YOU’RE IN’ CHALLENGE RACES ON 11-RACE OPENING DAY CARD AT SANTA ANITA
By BETH HARRIS
AP Racing Writer
ARCADIA, Calif. _ Bring on American Pharoah.
Beholder beat up on the competition again, winning the $300,000 Zenyatta Stakes for the third consecutive year at Santa Anita on Saturday in her final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic next month.
The 5-year-old mare and the Triple Crown winner are headed for a highly anticipated match-up in the $5 million Classic at Keeneland in Kentucky.
“I’d like to see what happens when that takes place,” said B. Wayne Hughes, who owns Beholder and lives in Lexington, Kentucky. “He’s a very good horse. He’s one of a kind. But he’s a colt, that’s his disadvantage.”
American Pharoah was expected to work out at Santa Anita on Sunday. He hasn’t run since finishing second in the Travers last month.
“I’m not going to make any predictions, but I can’t wait to get to Keeneland,” said Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who rides Beholder. “I just hope everybody shows up like they did today. I’ll probably feel less pressure going into the Classic than what I felt today. I knew we had to get through this one as easy as possible and it was.”
The Zenyatta was one of five Grade 1 races on the card, with winners earning automatic berths in various Breeders’ Cup races.
Beholder earned her sixth straight victory, this time by 3 1/4 lengths. She ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.83 and paid $2.20, $2.10 and $2.10 as the 1-9 favorite.
“I hate to say easy, but it really did look easy,” Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said. “She’s good. She’s really, really good.”
The 93-degree heat was a concern to Mandella, who briefly considered scratching Beholder.
“Then I thought if I scratch her something else could come up, then everything would be messed up,” he said, “so I stuck with it and I’m glad I did.”
Beholder broke on the far outside in the No. 9 post and settled just off the pace. She overtook leader My Sweet Addiction near the quarter-pole and pulled away through the stretch, with Stevens not needing his whip. He patted her mane as she crossed the finish line.
“She knows what her job is and she enjoys it,” Stevens said. “That big brain between her ears is what makes her different and special.”
My Sweet Addiction returned $5.40 and $3.40, while Savings Account was another 5 1/2 lengths back in third and paid $5.60 to show.
“To run second to that mare is really a good thing,” said Mike Smith, who rode My Sweet Addiction. “She just did everything right, but we ran against Beholder.”
In her previous start, Beholder won the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar, beating colts by 8 1/4 lengths. She has won 15 of 20 career starts, including 11 of 12 at Santa Anita. The victory, worth $180,000, increased her earnings to $4,436,600.
The other seven fillies and mares in the Zenyatta were running for second-place money, and all of them went off at double-digit odds.
In other Grade 1 races:
_Smooth Roller overtook pacesetter Bayern to win the $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes by 5 ½ lengths.
Ridden by Tyler Baze, Smooth Roller ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.08 and paid $13 to win.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert went 2-3, with Hoppertunity and Bayern, whose loss likely sent him into retirement.
Bayern won last year’s BC Classic, but he is 0-5 this year, finishing last twice. His third-place result equaled his best showing this season.
_Nyquist outlasted Swipe in a stretch duel to win the $300,000 FrontRunner Stakes by three-quarters of a length. Ridden by Mario Gutierrez, Nyquist ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.89 and paid $3 to win as the 1-2 favorite.
There was a stewards’ inquiry into the stretch run, when Nyquist came over on rail-hugging Swipe twice and appeared to brush him, but no changes were made.
Swipe was second and Hollywood Don third.
Trained by Doug O’Neill, Nyquist earned an automatic berth into the BC Juvenile. The 2-year-old colt improved to 4-0.
“That stretch run was probably a treadmill test for the cardiologist,” O’Neill said. “That was truly so exciting.”
_Songbird won the $300,000 Chandelier Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by 4 1/2 lengths under Smith to improve to 3-0.
She ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.79 and paid $2.40 to win as the 1-5 favorite for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Songbird earned a berth in the BC Juvenile Fillies.
Land Over Sea was second and Right There third.
_Photo Call scored a 2 ¼-length upset in the $300,000 Rodeo Drive Stakes under Drayden Van Dyke.
The Ireland-bred filly ran 1 1/4 miles on turf in 2:00.76 and paid $19.40, $10.80 and $7.60 at 8-1 odds for trainer Graham Motion. Photo Call earned a berth in the BC Filly & Mare Turf.
Elektrum, another Ireland-bred, was second. Stormy Lucy was third.
Hard Not to Like, the 8-5 favorite, finished eighth.