Champions Clash in Vanity Mile

Champions Clash in Vanity Mile

© Benoit Photo

Stellar Wind winning the $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes (gr. III) on August 30, 2015 at Del Mar. © BENOIT PHOTO
Stellar Wind winning the $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes (gr. III) on August 30, 2015 at Del Mar. © Benoit Photo

Two champions will face off on June 4th at Santa Anita when the three-time Eclipse award-winning mare Beholder takes on the 2015 Eclipse champion three-year-old filly Stellar Wind in an exceptional renewal of the $400,000 Vanity Mile (gr. I).

Beholder, a six-year-old mare trained by Richard Mandella, has been among the most dominant horses in the country for several years. In 2012, she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) and was voted champion two-year-old filly; in 2013, she won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) and received the title of champion three-year-old filly. After an injury and an illness derailed most of her 2014 campaign, she returned better than ever last year, going unbeaten in five starts while famous defeating males in the Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar.

Her exploits in 2015 earned her an Eclipse award as champion older mare, and although her accomplishments so far have almost certainly earned her a place in the Hall of Fame, Beholder isn’t done yet. The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) is on the agenda, and after a very easy victory in the Adoration Stakes (gr. III) to start the season, Beholder looks poised for another huge season and will return to grade I company in the Vanity Mile.

“She’s doing great, couldn’t be better,” Mandella was quoted as saying in the Santa Anita Stable Notes for May 28th.

But she will face a formidable rival in Stellar Wind, who won four graded stakes races last year before finishing a close second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I). The Vanity Mile will mark her first start of 2016, but Stellar Wind has trained sharply for her return, most recently breezing five furlongs in :59.60 on May 28th at Santa Anita.

“We’re starting her campaign relatively late with the Breeders Cup in mind,” trainer John Sadler was quoted as saying in the Santa Anita Stable Notes for May 30th. “She’s been training very well for her first race back and we’re looking forward to it.”

Victor Espinoza, Stellar Wind’s regular rider, will have the mount on Saturday.

“I worked her three times now and she’s ready, but it’s her first race back so you never know how they will perform, especially against Beholder,” Espinoza said. “We hope she runs well and we’ll go from there.”

Also entered in the Vanity Mile is Taris, winner of the Humana Distaff (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, but according to trainer Simon Callaghan, it’s possible that Taris won’t run.

“More likely we’ll wait until the Triple Bend [a Grade I event at seven furlongs against males on June 25],” Callaghan said.

To view a gallery of Beholder and Stellar Wind photos, please click here. The complete field for the Vanity Mile is as follows:

$400,000 Vanity Mile (gr. I) at Santa Anita
1 Stellar Wind, Victor Espinoza, John Sadler
2 Beholder, Gary Stevens, Richard Mandella
3 Divina Comedia, Joe Talamo, Simon Callaghan
4 Taris, Flavien Prat, Simon Callaghan
5 Lost Bus, Fernando Perez, Gary Sherlock
6 All Star Bub, Rafael Bejarano, Jerry Hollendorfer
7 Finest City, Tyler Baze, Ian Kruljac

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Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin's quest to become North America's richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the blog Unlocking Winners.

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