The Vanity Stakes is undoubtedly the most intriguing race this coming weekend. The one-mile dirt challenge hosted by Santa Anita Park will feature Beholder, a horse that is riding a seven-race win streak in to her 23rd competition. She is widely considered unbeatable at this point, but at least one horse – Stellar Wind – might be able to prove otherwise.
Beholder’s unreal record of 16-3-0 in 21 races is the stuff of legend and anyone who has seen the six-year old mare in action knows that she’s something special. Her connections are confident that she could beat the boys at the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic which is her intended end goal this season. She was supposed to compete last year against American Pharoah but was held out due to a sudden fever.
Her races have included smaller fields because nobody sees the point in running against her. In the Adoration Stakes, the field touted just six competitors and nobody was close to Beholder at the finish line. The Vanity Stakes will feature an expected field of seven, and almost everyone expects this race to be nothing more than a formality for Beholder on route to the world championships.
But even her trainer, Richard Mandella, knows that the upcoming renewal of the Vanity Stakes will be so much more. “It’s a real race this time,” said Beholder’s trainer. That’s because of Stellar Wind, perhaps the only racemare in the country capable of taking Beholder on in the female classes (the argument for Songbird is there too).
John Sadler, who trains Stellar Wind, is fairly confident about the Vanity Stakes but knows that there’s a looming shadow competing alongside his prized champion. “We’re in a route race and there’s seven horses, so the rail is ok,” Sadler commented. “I’d have preferred post three or four, but the post is what it is. The first race back, we wanted to run at home. There’s a lot of things we like about the race. Except Beholder.”
Stellar Wind herself last raced at the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, where she was caught at the finish line by Stopchargingmaria in an upset loss. Sadler and the Hronis Racing ownership team remain committed to her despite this, and there’s definite justification. The four-year old is now 5-1-1 in just 8 races total.
While there will be five other entrants in the 2016 Vanity Stakes, the larger sentiment is that this is a two-horse race. An outside shooting speedster like Taris is programmed to tackle a dirt mile extremely well, so she’s also a top consideration. But the showdown remains Stellar Wind and Beholder. Is the former ready to take down one of the best champions in all of thoroughbred racing? We’ll find out on Saturday.
For the record, I wouldn’t bet against Beholder but I would definitely stack her with Stellar Wind in a box no matter the odds.