ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) -- Mucho Macho Man tuned up for another try in the Breeders' Cup, winning the $250,000 Awesome Again Stakes by 4¼ lengths at Santa Anita on Saturday.
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens earned back-to-back Grade 1 wins aboard Mucho Macho Man and Beholder in the Zenyatta Stakes, two of the five Grade 1 races with Breeders' Cup implications at the host track for the world championships.
Mucho Macho Man was runner-up in last year's BC Classic. Saturday's win gave him an automatic berth in the race on Nov. 2, with his entry fees paid.
"This horse only has to make up a neck from last year's Breeders' Cup Classic, and I think he's a bigger, stronger horse than he was last year," Stevens said.
The 5-year-old Florida-bred ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.30 and paid $5.20, $3.20 and $2.80 as the 9-5 favorite in the field of 10. Mucho Macho Man snapped a five-race skid with his first Grade 1 victory, and first win since the Suburban Handicap on July 7, 2012.
"He's got a big, beautiful stride," said Stevens, who launched a comeback earlier this year at 50.
Mucho Macho Man has been at Santa Anita for nearly three weeks.
"He seems to thrive here," trainer Kathy Ritvo said.
Paynter returned $4.40 and $4. Soi Phet, who was claimed for $16,000 in May, was another 2¼ lengths back in third and paid $12.60 to show.
Paynter, one of three entries trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, ended a two-race skid. The 4-year-old colt overcame a life-threatening illness to race again in June, and showed Saturday that he can contend against top talent.
"He was behind there," Baffert said. "He took a lot of dirt; actually he settled pretty well and came wide. He was finishing up really well."
In the previous race, Stevens guided Beholder to a 1¼-length victory in the $250,000 Zenyatta Stakes against a deep field of fillies and mares in front of 12,216 fans.
Beholder ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.11. She paid $5.20, $3.60 and $2.10 as the 3-2 favorite on owner B. Wayne Hughes' 80th birthday. The 3-year-old filly is trained by Richard Mandella, who gave Beholder four months off after she finished second in the Kentucky Oaks in May.
She returned this month at Del Mar and won easily on that track's synthetic surface, a race that Mandella thought would give Beholder confidence before facing older fillies and mares in the Zenyatta.
"Gary is a great rider. He always has been ... but I don't want to take away from the filly," Mandella said. "The filly's very special. She couldn't look any better or be doing any better, so I had a lot of confidence."
Authenticity returned $4.80 and $3, having shipped in from New York for trainer Todd Pletcher. Joyful Victory also shipped in and paid $2.60 to show after being the runner-up a year ago.
The victory gave Beholder an automatic berth in the BC Distaff in November.
Tiz Flirtatious won the $250,000 Rodeo Drive Stakes by a head.
Ridden by Julien Leparoux, Tiz Flirtatious ran 1¼ miles on the turf in 1:58.98 and paid $5.40, $2.80 and $2.10 as the 8-5 favorite. It was her first start at the distance for trainer Marty Jones.
Marketing Mix returned $2.60 and $2.20, while Vionnet paid $6.60 to show.
"She ran her race, we just got outkicked," said Stevens, who rode Marketing Mix.
Tiz Flirtatious turned the tables in a rematch with Marketing Mix, who beat her by a head in the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park in May. The winner gets a berth in the BC Filly & Mare Turf in November and has her entry fees paid.
"She had to fight because those other fillies did not stop," Leparoux said. "It was a good race for her and she got the Grade 1 she deserves. I think she has a great chance for the Breeders' Cup. We knew she was really good, but it was nice to see her handle the distance."
In the $250,000 Chandelier Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, Secret Compass edged She's a Tiger to win by a head.
Ridden by Rosie Napravnik, Secret Compass ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.91 and paid $23.40, $8.40 and $3.60.
Napravnik traveled from the East Coast to ride Saturday.
"It was a no brainer. We've had a lot of success together," Baffert said. "She's an excellent rider so I put her on and sort of turned her loose and let her run her race."
She's a Tiger returned $4 and $2.40. Fascinating was another three-quarters of a length back in third and paid $2.10 to show as the 6-5 favorite, leaving her winless in four career starts.
Baffert went 1-3 in the race, while his other entry Awesome Baby finished fifth in the field of seven.
Secret Compass earned a spot in the $2 million BC Juvenile Fillies.
In the $250,000 FrontRunner Stakes, 10-1 shot Bond Holder won by 2¼ lengths in the 2-year-old's first race on dirt and first victory in five career starts.
Ridden by Mario Gutierrez, Bond Holder ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.02 and paid $23.80, $8.60 and $3.80. He's trained by Doug O'Neill and owned by J. Paul Reddam, who along with Gutierrez, were the team behind last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another.
"I don't think the dirt made much of a difference because he runs everywhere; it was the distance that was the biggest factor," Gutierrez said.
Dance With Fate returned $3.80 and $2.80 as the 2-1 favorite, while Tamarando was another two lengths back in third and paid $3.20 to show. Baffert's two entries, Can the Man and Roundupthelute, were fourth and last, respectively.