This is a horse racing story that has to be told. What happened at Del Mar in California on Saturday was out of the ordinary. Let me set the table. The race was the $1,000.000 Grade I Pacific Classic over 2000 metres. Beholder, a girl tackling the boys, was the favorite despite the fact that she was going over 2,000 metres for the first time in her career.
Beholder, ridden by Gary Stevens, justified the public confidence. Yes, she won without giving any anxiety to her supporters. And yes, she became the first filly or mare to win the Pacific Classic but the overwhelming part of the story was the manner in which Beholder did it.
Beholder and jockey Stevens sat third through fractions of 22.36, 45.45 and 1 09:98 and when Stevens let his mount loose, the five year-old Henny Hughes mare, shot to the front. In a matter of strides, the Pacific Classic had been put to bed. Beholder ran on putting daylight between herself and her adversaries. The winning margin was eight and one quarter lengths. The mile came in 1 35:2 and Beholder completed the 2000-metre journey in 1 59:77.
Richard Mandella, Beholder’s trainer, was winning his fourth Pacific Classic since the race was instituted in 1991. “When she made that move, it just took my breath away,” Mandella said.
Jockey Stevens was effusive in his praise. “She did all that on her own. Her ears were pricked straight up as if it was a morning workout. I knew she hadn’t hit the after burners yet. I let out a scream as we went past the wire. It was out of jubilation. This mare makes me emotional,” Stevens averred.
Beholder now has a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to be run on October 31 at Keeneland Race Course. It is the mighty American Pharoah that Beholder will face in that race.
The Breeders’ Cup Distaff is another option. Beholder, by virtue of her win in the Clement Hirsch, has an automatic berth in the Distaff.
Beholder is Henny Hughes, a Grade I winner of the King’s Bishop and the Vosburgh stakes. Henny Hughes is a son of Hennessy. Leslie’s Lady, a daughter of Tricky Creek, is Beholder’s mother.
I will be at Keeneland for the two-day Breeders’ Cup meeting on October 30 and 31.
I saw Beholder win the Juvenile Fillies race at the Breeders’ Cup festival in 2012 at Santa Anita. I was at Santa Anita again when she won the Distaff in 2013 as a three year-old. In 2014, she was a late scratch in the Distaff.
Treve remains favorite to win the Arc De Triomphe this year. Now five, Treve is on course to make it three in a row. It is a case of a girl taking the boys on. With Golden Horn’s loss in York’s Juddmonte International, Treve is firmly planted atop the pecking order. The Arc will be run at Longchamp on October 4.
In the US, Beholder has run out of competition in the distaff division. Her Pacific Classic romp should encourage her connections to take their chances against American Pharoah. What a treat will that be? Mouth-watering may be a hackneyed cliché. Let me call it ‘nerve-tingling.’