Beholder taking her run at history in Pacific Classic

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

August 18th, 2015

Saturday's $1 million Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar, once thought as a possible but not-very-likely race for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, will nonetheless have intrigue as the dual-champion mare Beholder is expected to take her place in the starting gate with the boys in the 1 1/4-mile test.

A champion at two and three, Beholder missed out on bagging a third Eclipse Award last year after contracting a fever right before an intended start in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) at Santa Anita. Considering the direction eventual champion Close Hatches was heading, Beholder undoubtedly could have loosened the grip that filly had on divisional honors with another Distaff score over her favorite track.

Stopchargingmaria, Wedding Toast, and Sheer Drama are all nice mares, but those East Coast-based rivals appear a cut below in the divisional pecking order at the moment, and will really be behind the eight-ball should Beholder make history with a win Saturday.

Run for the first time in 1991, the Pacific Classic has not yet been won by a filly or mare. Paseana, who would go on to be named champion older mare twice, was supplemented to the second running of the event in 1992, but faltered to fifth as the 17-10 favorite after pressing a fast pace set by eventual winner Missionary Ridge. Paseana was never tried against males again.

The connections of Beholder correctly recognized after her facile win in the August 1 Clement L. Hirsch (G1) that she had nothing more to prove facing another field of fillies and mares in the immediate future. The decision to try the Pacific Classic is also aided by the fact the older male division out west, arguably led by fellow Richard Mandella trainee Catch a Flight, does not appear overly imposing.

The Pacific Classic, like most prestigious events that are the traditional domain of older males, has been a tough nut for fillies and mares to crack. As noted, only Paseana has really given it a whirl. Thus the Pacific Classic has much in common with the other two races that comprise the great triumvirate of California events for older horses -- the Santa Anita H. (G1) and Gold Cup at Santa Anita ([G1] formerly the Hollywood Gold Cup).

Older than the Pacific Classic by more than a half-century, the Santa Anita H. has never been won by a filly or mare. Champions Next Move (1951) and Gamely (1968), as well as Island Fashion (2004), all ran second in the Big 'Cap, but Hall of Fame notables like Silver Spoon and Bayakoa ran below-par against some of the more modest winners in the race's history.

The Gold Cup has been much kinder to the distaff set, yielding three female winners, although none since Princessnesian prevailed narrowly in 1968. Notables like Honeymoon, Bewitch, Cascapedia, A Gleam, and Manta all placed in the Gold Cup, while Life Is Sweet (2009) was the most recent filly to crash the trifecta.

Beholder has never raced beyond nine furlongs nor has she attempted anything longer than 1 1/16 miles since her victory in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Distaff, but she holds the amazing distinction of being undefeated in 11 starts around two turns in Southern California. In that lone respect she increasingly parallels the great Zenyatta, who racked up 16 consecutive wins around two turns on the circuit.

Sadly, races like the Santa Anita H., Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic were never seriously considered for Zenyatta, who probably would have had any or all at her mercy. That has left the door open for Beholder to potentially etch her name in another section of racing's history book and confirm her ticket to the Hall of Fame.

(Beholder photo; Benoit Photos)