A convincing winner of the La Brea (G1) and Santa Monica (G2), Hard Not to Love will seek her fourth consecutive victory when she lines up for Saturday’s $400,000 Beholder Mile (G1) at Santa Anita. The 4-year-old filly tops a field of seven in her two-turn debut.
Trained by John Shirreffs, Hard Not to Love won her first two starts last year. The daughter of Hard Spun headed to the sidelines after finishing fourth as the favorite in her stakes debut, the seven-furlong Angel Flight in early May. After returning with a triumph over conditioned allowance foes in late October, the bay filly earned her first stakes tally in the 7-furlong La Brea on Santa Anita’s opening-day program.
Hard Not to Love missed the break in the La Brea, rallying from well off the pace for the first time to score by 2 1/4 lengths, but she resumed her customary up-close stalking tactics in the Feb. 15 Santa Monica, drawing off to a 3 1/2-length decision in the 7-furlong event. The once-beaten miss has registered commendable 103-101 Brisnet Speed ratings in the last two starts, and Mike Smith retains the assignment.
Ollie’s Candy will make her first start since a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). A two-time stakes heroine, including a victory in the Clement L. Hirsch (G1) last summer, the 5-year-old daughter of Candy Ride has run well in her last four dirt starts. Flavien Prat picks up the mount for John Sadler.
Santa Monica runner-up Mother Mother is one of two in the field for Bob Baffert. Winner of the Kalookan Queen S. two back, the 4-year-old Pioneerof the Nile filly has improved her Speed figures in the last two starts and gets a new rider Drayden Van Dyke. Baffert will also send out Der Lu, who exits a sharp front-running allowance win on Feb. 14. The 4-year-old recorded a nose second in the Jan. 11 La Canada (G2), and Der Lu should be forwardly placed from her inside post with Abel Cedillo.
Ce Ce will make her second start off a layoff following a 4 1/4-length thrashing of entry-level allowance foes on Feb. 14. Mike McCarthy conditions the lightly-raced daughter of Elusive Quality, and Victor Espinoza will be up. Zusha gets part often, placing in the Bayakoa (G3), La Canada and Santa Monica, and Unberto Rispoli rides the Gary Mandella-trained mare. Expected longshot Kaydetre completes the field.
The Beholder Mile is one of eight dirt races at Santa Anita on Saturday. The San Simeon (G3) on turf has been rescheduled for March 21.