Unique Bella winning the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) - Benoit Photo

Unique Bella winning the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) – Benoit Photo

Saturday’s feature at Santa Anita Park is the $400,000 Grade 1 Beholder Mile.The race named for the star Richard Mandella trainee only drew a field of six, but it does not lack star power given the presence of Unique Bella, Vale Dori and Paradise Woods.

Don Alberto Stable’s #6 Unique Bella makes her first start since a poor break led to a disappointing second place effort as the 1-5-favorite in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park in mid-April. The daughter of Tapit has done a lot right in her career winning 7 of 10 and earning over $852K, but she has also been her own worst enemy at times.

The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee was dominant in her first two starts after flopping in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Del Mar last November and is the clear one to beat in the Beholder Mile. The only question is do you want to back at horse at odds-on that has shown to struggle with the mental part of the game at times. The outside draw and the cutback to one mile are both positives, as is the fact that I am not sure her main rivals are at the top of their game heading into Saturday’s Grade 1 event.  At her price she is impossible to endorse in the Win pool, but she is by far the likeliest winner in Saturday’s main event at “The Great Race Place.”

#4 Paradise Woods has not won since being left alone on an uncontested lead last September as the 1-2-favorite in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes. Last time out in the Grade 2 Santa Monica she broke slowly, stalked the pace as the odds-on chalk, and tired badly to finish fourth in a field of five. Overall, she has posted huge BRIS speed ratings when she gets to run loose on the lead, but has failed to impress when engaged in any sort of tussle in the early going. I do not foresee her having things easy on Saturday with Unique Bella drawn to her outside making her a play against for me.

#5 Vale Dori rattled off six consecutive victories from October of 2016 to May of 2017 for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, but has lost three straight heading into the Beholder Mile, including a poor return effort last month in the Grade 3 Adoration Stakes. Clearly, Baffert did not have her set for her best effort in that spot, but I am extremely concerned that the six-year-old Argentinian bred has seen better days. Her affinity for this racetrack and distance are positives, but I think those races came when she was a better horse.

#2 Mopotism makes her second start off the nine-week freshening for trainer Doug O’Neill after racing over the lawn in the Grade 1 Gamely last weekend. I am not crazy about the quick return, but she has done some of her best running at one mile and has races to go back to that put her “in the mix” in this spot.

#1 Munny Spunt and #3 La Force appear overmatched.

Here is how I will wager on The Beholder Mile:

Unique Bella is my clear top choice, but I am not willing to wager on her at anything below even money. That is extremely unlikely to happen, so I will play one small exacta with Mopotism and put the majority of my budget into the late Pick 4 that commences in Race 7 with the $200,000 Show Chief run at nine panels over the Santa Anita sod.

Race 7:

$1 Pick 4

1+4 with 4+5+6+9 with 6 with 1+2+8 = $24

$2 Pick 4

1+4 with 5+9 with 6 with 2+8 = $16

Race 9:

$10 Exacta 6-2 = $10

Total Budget: $50