BEHOLDER IS ALL ABOUT GREATNESS
Time always lends perspective. Sometimes we don’t understand the magnitude when it happens, but later, we do. I am not exactly sure if the sporting world understood what happened at Del Mar on August 22, 2015, but in time they will.
The Pacific Classic has been a showcase for top Thoroughbreds since 1991. With a purse of $1 million and the magnificence the Bing Crosby created Seaside Oval offers, it is the place to be. Twenty-four previous runnings had featured many memorable moments since Best Pal won the inaugural back in 1991. There was Dare and Go’s upset of mighty Cigar in 1996, Candy Ride setting the stakes record for the mile and a quarter (!:59.11) beneath jockey Julie Krone in 2003, Lava Man completing a sweep of the California handicap triple crown ( Santa Anita Handicap, Gold Cup, Pacific Classic) in 2006, and Game On Dude’s front-running romp by record margin to complete that same sweep in 2013. But the 2015 edition would offer up an all-new opportunity.
Beholder entered the silver anniversary Classic attempting to become the first female entering the winner’s circle after the Classic was completed. Four others had tried previously to beat the boys, but a fifth place finish (Paseana 1992) was the best they could muster. Beholder, however, was different from the others. Sporting a very impressive resume, which includes two Breeders’ Cup wins (2012 Juvenile Fillies, 2013 Distaff), this five-year old mare was coming in as the one to beat. Of course questions were abundant, like can she get the distance, and how will she fair against bigger, stronger, and more durable males. Her previous performances, however, spoke volumes of her abilities. Like her haul of fame rider, Gary Stevens, had proudly proclaimed earlier in the week, “ she doesn’t need any icing for her cake, she is already a great horse”.
With the excitement building and post time drawing ever so near, a peek into the paddock was a premonition of what was to come. As the entrants were being saddled and final preparations made, there was Beholder, calm, cool, and collected. With an air of invincibility about her, she strode through the paddock tunnel with her trusted passenger aboard. Much like her jockey, she knew she was the best. And in just a few minutes, everyone else would know that too.
A bit of research on this fantastically fast female tells us she sets or stalks the pace then unleashes a furious turn of foot to the finish line at about the far turn. That would be yet another challenge as the bullet-like Bayern and half brother of American Pharoah, Midnight Storm, would ensure a lively pace. Then closers like Hard Aces, Hoppertunity, and Catch a Flight would be running late. With a distance never covered before by this Henny Hughes fathered heroine, her normal strategy was in question.
Then the gates opened and Beholder provided all the answers. Overthinking can be a flaw in all of us horse handicappers. It did not really matter what the others did because this was Beholder we are talking about. Yes the hot pace was there (22.36 opening quarter, 45.45 half mile), but she need not change the dance that had delivered 13 wins in 18 lifetime starts. Moving on her own, Beholder bolted past the pace-setting pair heading into the far turn and moved freely on the front. Pushed by no one, she opened it up down the stretch and cruised effortlessly to an 8 ¼ length win.
“We ran by Bayern like he was tied,” says Stevens. “Going into the starting gates I was not nervous at all because I knew she was ready. The move was all her because I never touched her. She is just a super intelligent horse and I have got all the respect in the world for her. I can’t really compare this performance to anything because I have never experienced anything like it.”
Beholder’s dominance was dare we say it, something to behold. We all know the cream rises to the top and she is made from the finest of milks. The sizzling final time of 1:59.77 and second largest margin of victory are testaments. That run was one for the ages and as times moves forward her legendary performance will justifiably grow. Having seen her run before and understanding her talent level, I was a believer and a backer before she toed the track on August 22. Then after she ran and I put my dropped jaw back in place, the true magnificence of this mare hit me. Stars are a part of any sport. Superstars are what make them special. Beholder has that mojo in her makeup and everyone at Del Mar on Pacific Classic day 2015 saw and felt it. It has only been a few days but I already understand that was not just the 14th career notch in her bridle, it was a glimpse at her greatness.