STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN

• CHAMP BEHOLDER READY FOR HER CLOSEUP SUNDAY

• DIAMOND BACHELOR ADDS BLINKERS FOR LA PUENTE

• MITCHELL PASSES BATON TO ASSISTANT PHIL D’AMATO

• SANTA ANITA ENDS WINTER MEET ON EASTER SUNDAY

• MIKE SMITH ON HOPPERTUNITY IN KENTUCKY DERBY

MANDELLA ‘HAPPY TO BE BACK’ WITH BEHOLDER ON SUNDAY

When last seen, Beholder was storming her way to a 4 ¼-length triumph in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff, leaving in her wake champion Royal Delta and Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar.

That was last Nov. 2 at Santa Anita. Beholder has been resting on her considerable laurels, so to speak, ever since, but on Sunday, the daughter of Henny Hughes owned by B. Waynes Hughes and trained by Richard Mandella returns to work in earnest in the $75,000 Santa Lucia Stakes.

“We’re just happy to be back,” Mandella said on an overcast Friday morning at Santa Anita. “She trains as good as ever and we hope she runs as good as ever.”

Asked if there were any noticeable changes in Beholder, physically or emotionally, from three to four, Mandella quipped: “I’m emotional. I’m pretty nervous about it.”

That might be understandable anytime a trainer sends out a prohibitive favorite, which Mandella has done many times in a Hall of Fame career that lists Phone Chatter (1993) and Halfbridled (2003) among his previous 2-year-old filly champions. Beholder has surpassed both of them, winning an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old filly of 2012 and champion 3-year-old filly of 2013.

“Beholder looks the same (as she did at the end of her 3-year-old season),” Mandella said. “She grew up fast, as is obvious by her record. She matured very quickly. She’s the same filly we sent out (after winning the Distaff); we hope she runs the same.”

After finishing second by a half-length at 9-1 to Princess of Sylmar in the Kentucky Oaks early last May, Beholder ripped off three straight daylight victories: the ungraded Torry Pines at Del Mar on Sept. 1; the Grade I Zenyatta on Sept. 28; and the Grade I Distaff, cementing the title in the 3-year-old filly division.

“She got so much better as she got older,” Mandella said when asked the differences, if any, from Beholder to Phone Chatter and Halfbridled. “The other fillies came up with problems, and that compromised them. Beholder didn’t.”

The field for the Santa Lucia, the eighth of nine races: Legacy, Drayden Van Dyke; Moulin de Mougin, Martin Garcia; Beholder, Gary Stevens; Magic Union, Victor Espinoza; Eblouissante, Mike Smith; City At Dawn, Julien Couton; and Irish Princess, Tyler Baze.

ESPINOZA ON DIAMOND BACHELOR IN LA PUENTE STAKES

With Mike Smith riding Game On Dude Saturday in the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic, Victor Espinoza takes over on Diamond Bachelor for trainer Patrick Biancone in the $75,000 La Puente Stakes for 3-year-olds at 11/8 miles on turf.

“I’ve never ridden him in a race but I worked him a half-mile,” Espinoza said. “I really like him. I expect him to run big.”

Diamond Bachelor, fourth in the Pasadena Stakes on March 22 after prompting the pace, adds blinkers for the La Puente.

The field for the La Puente: Life’s Journey, Julien Couton, 20-1; On Draft, Aaron Gryder, 20-1; Flamboyant, Corey Nakatani, 8-1; Excessive Kid, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2; Diamond Bachelor, Victor Espinoza, 5-2; Enterprising, Gary Stevens, 8-5; Home Run Kitten, Joe Talamo, 3-1; and Argentine, Alonso Quinonez, 30-1.

TOP TRAINER MIKE MITCHELL TAKING TIME TO SMELL THE ROSES

After a memorable career that began four decades ago, Mike Mitchell is taking time to smell the roses. The 65-year-old trainer will pass full-time training duties on to assistant Phil D’Amato Sunday and lend considerable knowledge to his former aide of 10 years in a supporting role.

“We’re still a team,” said Mitchell, the son of the late trainer, Earl Mitchell, and a fixture in Southern California since 1974. “For me, it’s not about most wins and records. I’ve done it all. Now, it’s time to enjoy being part of the team.

“I’ll still lend my support and give my advice and counseling, and be out at the track most mornings, but I want to travel and take care of my health. Phil’s been like a son to me, and he’s getting new clients in his own right. It’s been a beautiful relationship but the time is right for this move.”

A two-time leading trainer at Santa Anita’s winter/spring meetings in 1992-93 and 2007-08, Mitchell is currently fifth on the all-time Santa Anita trainer’s leaderboard with 659 wins, behind only Bobby Frankel, Charlie Whittingham, Ron McAnally and Bob Baffert. Mitchell was also leading trainer three times at Santa Anita’s Oak Tree Meetings, taking titles in 1995, 1996 and 2004.

A perennial contender for leading trainer honors at all major meets in Southern California dating back to the late 70’s, Mitchell was always known as a great claiming trainer and a keen judge of talent whose ability to analyze the way races would be run paid his clients and backers consistent dividends throughout his remarkable career.

Mitchell, a native of Bakersfield, has won 18 meet titles and 2,668 races, including a record 476 at Del Mar. In 2012, he had surgery to remove a brain tumor. D’Amato, 37, directed the stable operation during Mitchell’s long recovery.

Among Mitchell’s rejuvenated former claiming horses that he developed into stakes winners were Big Booster, Church Service, Ever a Friend, On the Acorn and Star Over the Bay, who he claimed for $80,000 en route to a Grade I win in the Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship in 2004. His most recent Grade I winner is the recently retired Egg Drop, who captured the Grade I Matriarch on Dec. 1 at Hollywood Park.

His final stats for the meet are 29-6-7-5, good for a win percentage of 21. His horses finished in the money at a 62 percent clip this meet.

Mitchell and his wife, Denise, have two adult daughters, McCall and Shea.

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MEET ENDS SUNDAY, LIVE RACING RESUMES FRIDAY, APRIL 25

Santa Anita ends its Winter Meet on Easter Sunday. First post time is 12:30 p.m.; gates open at 10:30 a.m. There will be no live racing at Santa Anita Monday through Wednesday, April 21 through 23, but Santa Anita will be open Thursday, April 24, for simulcast wagering in Sironas and the Paddock Room. Gates open at 10:15 a.m.

Live racing resumes Friday, April 25, with twilight racing. First post time will be 3 p.m. First post time on Saturday, April 26, and Sunday, April 26, will be 1 p.m., with gates opening at 11 a.m.

On Easter Sunday, families are invited to Santa Anita for the largest Easter egg hunt in the San Gabriel Valley. The family Fun Zone in the infield offers inflatable jumpers, face painting, pony rides and more. Visit santaanita.com for details.

FINISH LINES: Agent Brad Pegram reports that Mike Smith will ride Santa Anita Derby runner-up Hoppertunity in the Kentucky Derby on May 3. With Martin Garcia aboard, Hoppertunity worked five furlongs in company on Santa Anita Anita’s main track Friday in 1:00.20 for Bob Baffert, who also sent Santa Anita Oaks runner-up Ria Antonia the same distance under Garcia in a bullet 59.40, fastest of 62 drills at the distance, the average time of which was 1:01.61 . . . Fashion Plate, winner of the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes and the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks in her last two starts, worked four furlongs in company with Oaks third-place finisher Bajan. Each was timed in 49.60. Fashion Plate is headed to the Kentucky Oaks on May 2, as is Ria Antonia, while Bajan is ticketed for the $175,000 Eight Belles at Churchill Downs, also on May 2. “It was a perfect work, just an easy half,” trainer Simon Callaghan said of Fashion Plate’s move. “Her main work will be here next Saturday.” . . . Agent Sarah Wolfe reports that leading apprentice rider Drayden Van Dyke won seven races (including a dead-heat) at Turf Paradise on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday . . . Agent Dudley Osborne now represents jockey Eswan Flores . . . Apprentice Jimmy Guzman has moved his tack to Golden Gate Fields . . . Tom Quigley’s handicapping seminar guests this weekend will be Jon Lindo, Daily Racing Form Western ad representative, on Saturday, and Joe Talamo, the meet’s second-leading rider, on Sunday, each day starting at 11:10 a.m.