GARRETT GOMEZ, BEHOLDER, WINNER: “The other day, the other race (Beholder’s last race on Jan. 21 in the Santa Ynez, where she ran second), I was really surprised when she didn’t run as well as I thought she was going to. But, there was an explanation for it (an ulcer was found in her throat after that race).

“Richard (Mandella) didn’t want to use that as the main excuse but there was a little question mark there from the performance. It wasn’t a horrible performance, but it wasn’t what we expected.

“She had been doing everything so superbly in the mornings; sitting off horses, doing whatever was asked, etc, that it was mind-boggling that she didn’t kick for me when we turned for home. We came to find out that there was a little something there. It was a whole different feeling today. She did everything beautiful, she traveled beautifully, when I asked her to quicken, she quickened, I couldn’t have asked her to do anything better for me.”

(Safe to say she’s back?)

“She’s back!”

RAFAEL BEJARANO, FIFTYSHADESOFHAY, SECOND: “I tried to go to the lead, but the favorite just had so much speed. I just tried to keep my position because I knew she was going to take off in the stretch. She’s a nice horse, and I did the best I could.”

“She was too fast. As soon as we got into the stretch, (Beholder) took off really fast. She showed a good kick--my horse was still running, but it was not enough. It was a good second--no excuses.”

MIKE SMITH, SCARLET STRIKE, THIRD: “I had a great trip. No excuses. I was hoping for a little more pace up front, but other than that, she ran extremely well.”


RICHARD MANDELLA, BEHOLDER, 4-5 FAVORITE, WINNER: “When you’ve got one this good it’s just a relief to get the job done. You hope you don’t mess it up. She’s very fast. To take her back and fight her wouldn’t make any sense.

“Sprinting, when they go a half (mile) in 43 (seconds), it’s easy. But she needed to be where she was. Everything she did today was great. She’s a great filly. We’ll enjoy this today, but plans are for her to run next in the Santa Anita Oaks (Grade I, $300,000, 1 1/16 miles on April 6).”

JIM BARNES, ASSISTANT TO BOB BAFFERT, FIFTYSHADESOFHAY, SECOND: “The race basically set up just how I thought it would. I was expecting the winner (Beholder) would more than likely go to the lead like that because that’s how Garrett’s (Gomez) been riding her. He sent, we got to the outside of her, and we ran a great race to come on to be second.”

NOTES: The winning owner is B. Wayne Hughes of Lexington, Ky., who races as Spendthrift Farm LLC.