Breeders' Cup - At The Races

BEHOLDER

Beholder
  • Trainer: Richard E Mandella
  • Likely Jockey: Gary Stevens
  • Owner: Spendthrift Farm LLC
  • Age & Breeding: 6-year-old mare; Henny Hughes - Leslie's Lady
  • Season Form Figures: 11222
  • Career Highlight: Dominating a field of males in the 2015 Pacific Classic

Beholder has spent the better part of the last five years winning Grade 1 races. Her first was in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile back in 2012, and since then she's reeled off eight more, including a win in the 2013 Distaff, the race she will contest again this year. Her signature win to date came last year, in the Pacific Classic, when she thoroughly dominated a field of males at Del Mar.

The last two years she's missed the Breeders' Cup due to injury or illness, denying racing fans the tantalizing prospect of a clash between her and American Pharaoh in 2015. It's well known that Beholder is a tricky shipper, and she got ill in the days before last year's Classic after shipping to Keeneland. Fortunately for her connections, this year's Cup is taking place at her home base of Santa Anita.

Should bettors be concerned that this year her trainer and owner have chosen the easier spot of the Distaff to the Classic? Not necessarily. For one thing, California Chrome has already proven his superiority to her, beating her by five lengths in this year's Pacific Classic. For another, going to the Distaff is still a tremendous sporting proposition. She will be taking on Stellar Wind, a fine filly who has bested her twice this season, not to mention the incredible Songbird, who has dropped jaws (if not stopped watches) with her performances this season.

What is one to make of the defeats to Stellar Wind? The facile answer is that perhaps the great Beholder has lost a step. Speed figures tell a different tale, however.Her last two races are at the upper scale figure wise of what she runs, the freak performance in last year's Pacific Classic an exception. Perhaps Stellar Wind has simply blossomed as a four-year-old and now California boasts a second elite Grade 1 performer in this division.

Are there grounds for believing that Beholder can turn the tables on Stellar Wind this time around? Possibly, and one reason might be race shape. Her jockey, Gary Stevens, suggests that Beholder would much prefer to be the hunter than the hunted. In the past two races circumstances dictated that she was always going to be in front - there was no other speed and Stellar Wind was drawn outside. This time around, Songbird will almost certainly be in front of both older fillies, allowing Beholder a better chance to get the position her rider insists she wants. The draw may be more important in this race than any other. Should Beholder draw outside of Stellar Wind, she may be able to make the last, winning move this time around.

It's interesting to note that her brilliant trainer, Richard Mandella, disputes Stevens's analysis, at least to a point. He's on record saying that his mare doesn't have an excuse for the last two defeats and perhaps she lost the "killer instinct" she once possessed. Still, pay close attention to how she trains up to the race and the draw. A glory days run from Beholder could produce an ending worthy of Hollywood at the racetrack 20 miles east.

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