Beholder Is to the Cubs as Songbird is to the Indians in Breeders' Cup Distaff Thriller

Profile Picture: Ed DeRosa

Ed DeRosa

November 5th, 2016

What a week for sports!

Two days after the Chicago Cubs bested the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series, Thoroughbred racing delivered a thunderous encore when champions Beholder and Songbird threw down the length of the Santa Anita Park stretch before having the 1 1/8-mile Breeders’ Cup Distaff coming down to a nose.

In the end it was Beholder’s nose playing the role of the Cubs as the six-year-old mare outlasted the three-year-old Songbird, who had to settle for the role of Cleveland Indian.

Unlike those two World Series teams, only one of these great Thoroughbreds will return next year, as the Distaff marked the end of Beholder’s certain Racing Hall of Fame career. She won 18 of 26 starts, including 3 Breeders’ Cup races at ages 2, 3, & 6 among 10 Grade 1s. She was champion two- and three-year-old filly and will be champion older female again this year for the second consecutive year.

“I made the statement that they better have their running shoes on to beat her; then I kicked myself for saying it, but it turned out I was right,” Racing Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said of Beholder. “She’s just a great horse.”

“It’s probably the most emotional race of my career because she’s so special to me, and it’s her last race,” Racing Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens said aboard Beholder. “I have new respect for Songbird even in defeat. Beholder, even in the past, has never given me everything like she gave me today.”

Indeed, Songbird loses nothing in defeat besides her undefeated record and winner’s share of the purse. Last year’s champion two-year-old filly and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner will be champion three-year-old filly this year and was much the best of the rest of a Distaff field that included last year’s champion three-year-old filly Stellar Wind and multiple Grade 1 winners Curalina, Forever Unbridled, and I’m a Chatterbox.

“She ran incredible, and I’m so proud of her,” Racing Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith said of Songbird. “The real Beholder showed up today. That was probably the best race she has run in her life. My filly made her reach down as deep as she has. In losing, I feel like we won.

“My filly will get bigger and stronger next year as they all do when they get older; she’s a true champion.”

“It was a great race,” Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “She dug in through the stretch when [Beholder] came alongside of us.”

The Distaff drama set the stage for a Breeders’ Cup Saturday that features the $6-million Breeders’ Cup Classic with another West Coast star in California Chrome. Favorites went winless in four races on Friday.