Beholder three-peat in Zenyatta faces a Stellar Wind

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

September 28th, 2016

Three-time champion Beholder goes in search of an unprecedented third consecutive win in Saturday's $300,000 Zenyatta (G1) at Santa Anita, but arguably faces her sternest foe ever in the 1 1/16-mile fixture in Stellar Wind.

The pair have met twice this season, with Beholder taking the first meeting, the Vanity (G1), by 1 1/2 lengths in what was Stellar Wind's season debut. The positions were surprisingly reversed in the Clement L. Hirsch (G1) at Del Mar July 30, when Stellar Wind took it to the multiple champion around the far turn and ultimately wore her down by a half-length.

Trainer Richard Mandella, who felt he might have gone too easy on Beholder in preparing for the Hirsch, got her in better form for the mare's title defense in the Pacific Classic (G1) against males, but she still found herself five lengths second to leading older horse California Chrome. Stellar Wind has not raced since the Hirsch.

The Zenyatta has the potential to play an important role in the outcome for divisional honors, especially if the three-year-old Songbird were to beat both Beholder and Stellar Wind in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1). A victory by either on Saturday would give the winner the upper hand over the other leading up to the big one five weeks from now.

The top pair will face token opposition in the Zenyatta. Three others were entered including multiple graded stakes winner Tara's Tango, but that filly might await next week's Spinster (G1) at Keeneland.

The $300,000 Chandelier (G1), one of the races the propelled Songbird to stardom a year ago, attracted a field of 12 two-year-old fillies to go 1 1/16 miles.

American Cleopatra, a full sister to Triple Crown hero American Pharoah, looks to rebound from her second in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) for owner Ahmed Zayat and trainer Bob Baffert. Sorrento (G2) heroine Champagne Room was only a nose behind American Cleopatra in the Debutante and also warrants respect.

Potential upsetters include With Honors, who has won both her starts on grass including the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf, and the Richard Baltas-trained Zapperkat, who won debut by more than five lengths at Del Mar August 20.

The $300,000 Rodeo Drive (G1), for fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles on the turf, attracted the most entries of any Breeders' Cup prep at Santa Anita on Saturday. Fourteen were entered, but none stand out as potential major players in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) over the same course and distance in early November.

Among the notables are recent John C. Mabee (G2) winner Avenge; Robert G. Dick Memorial (G3) vixen Real Smart; and Grade 3 winner Zipessa, a solid third in the Beverly D. (G1) last time after taking a 2 1/2-length lead in the stretch.

(Coady Photography)