The $400,000 Beholder Mile (G1) and $400,000 Shoemaker Mile (G1) will take place Saturday at Santa Anita Park, and the former contest features a major showdown between Stellar Wind, Vale Dori and Finest City while the latter will see Heart to Heart take on Bal al Bali.
The Beholder Mile was supposed to also include multiple champion Songbird, but is still an exciting affair despite that filly opting for the Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1) on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
Champion Stellar Wind finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) last year as the now-retired Beholder and Songbird duked it out to the finish, separated only by Beholder’s nose on the wire. Before that, Stellar Wind actually got the best of Beholder in both the Zenyatta Stakes (G1) and Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
The chestnut daughter of Curlin was second to Beholder in the 2016 running of this race, when it was called the Vanity Mile, and held Finest City to third by three parts of a length on that day. Stellar Wind also saw Vale Dori finish third when taking the Zenyatta last October. The John Sadler pupil returned to competition on April 14 at Oaklawn Park, winning the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1), and keeps regular rider Victor Espinoza in the irons here.
Vale Dori is perfect in 2017 from four starts thus far for trainer Bob Baffert. The Asiatic Boy five-year-old has actually captured seven of her last eight starts, with the most recent coming in the Santa Margarita Stakes (G1) and Adoration Stakes (G3). She keeps Rafael Bejarano aboard while cutting back to a mile for the first time since taking the Tranquility Lake Stakes last August.
Finest City was honored as the 2016 champion female sprinter after winning the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita Park last November. The Ian Kruljac trainee successfully kicked off her five-year-old campaign with a wire-to-wire victory in the Santa Monica Stakes (G2) on January 21, but followed up with a pair of seconds in the Santa Margarita Stakes (G1) and Humana Distaff (G1) in her past two. The City Zip mare just missed by a neck in that latter contest under Mile Smith, who retains the mount for the Beholder Mile.
Multiple Grade 2-placed Show Stealer and stakes debuter Faithfully complete the Beholder Mile field.
One race earlier, Canadian champion Heart to Heart faces six rivals in the Shoemaker Mile on the turf. The Brian Lynch-trained six-year-old will be going for his first Grade 1 victory after running fourth in this contest 12 months ago and finishing second in the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) for the past two years. The bay son of English Channel held the lead in the Maker’s 46 Mile last out at Keeneland, but was caught on the line and forced to settle for second by a neck. Julien Leparoux has the return call.
Brazilian Horse of the Year Bal a Bali captured his seasonal bow in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) on March 11 but enters the Shoemaker Mile off a one-paced fifth-placing in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day. The Richard Mandella-trained seven-year-old has racked up an 11-7-0-2 mark at the distance and gets a jockey switch to Smith in this spot.
Grade 1 winner What a View and multiple Grade 2 hero Bolo are also in the Shoemaker Mile with a shot. The former led the way in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile in March before just being caught by a head on the wire. He followed with a tiring sixth in the Maker’s 46 Mile, but returned to the winner’s circle last out by wiring the Crystal Water Stakes. Bolo, third in the Frank Kilroe Mile and ninth in the Maker’s 46 Mile, successfully defended his title in the Arcadia Stakes (G2) earlier this year, and showed signs of that form when third in the Thunder Road Stakes (G3) last out.
Tyler Baze will get a leg up on What a View from trainer Ken Black, while conditioner Carla Gaines has tabbed Corey Nakatani to be Bolo’s saddle.
Completing the Shoemaker Mile field are Farhaan, winner of the Thunder Road; Grade 2 scorer Free Rose, unraced since a fifth-placing in the Hollywood Derby (G1) on December 3; and Gangster.