Five Takeaways from Beholder's Pacific Classic
1) Brilliance – The older male and female divisions in California can be criticized, but nobody expected Beholder to dominate both in similar fashion. Whether she’s taking the Clement L. Hirsch (G1) by seven lengths or the Pacific Classic (G1) by 8 ¼, the five 5yo mare is winning on cruise control, making it look so easy. And the 112 BRIS Speed rating she registered Saturday stacks up favorably versus any horse in training.
2) Fortunate turn of events – Beholder was scheduled to be sold last fall but a fever caused a change in plans. She captured the Zenyatta (G1) in late September and was pointing for a title defense in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), where a victory would’ve resulted in a third straight Eclipse Award, and she figured to be retired after passing through the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky sales ring in early November. But she was too sick to travel, forcing her withdrawal from the sale as the Spendthrift Farm colorbearer came back for another season with Richard Mandella, and Beholder has never been better than she was in the Pacific Classic, her turn of foot on the far turn eliciting screams of “wow” on my end.
3) Versatility – Beholder made her first four starts in sprints and displayed high speed earlier in her career, leading wire to wire in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). And speed was no surprise given the pedigree, with sire Henny Hughes being a multiple Grade 1 winner at six furlongs and out of a Meadowlake mare; dam Leslie’s Lady racing primarily in sprints; and broodmare sire Tricky Creek’s progeny having only a 6.6-furlong average winning distance. But Beholder exceeded any perceived distance limitations on Saturday, winning the 1 ¼-mile Pacific Classic with authority, and her ability to relax during the early stages, rating five lengths off the pace during the opening half-mile, is the difference. She’s probably not going to last 10 furlongs dueling from the start with Bayern.
4) Elite company – Beholder may not join Rachel Alexandra (2009), Zenyatta (2010) and Havre de Grace (2011) as Horse of the Year winners, but she belongs in the discussion of leading distaffers of the era, with the opportunity to enhance her reputation this fall.
5) Breeders’ Cup Classic – Beholder has never won outside of California, dropping two previous attempts, and there’s no guarantee she’ll carry her stellar Del Mar/Santa Anita form to Keeneland in late October. But the Pacific Classic proved she belongs in the October 31 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1); from a Speed figure perspective, Beholder ran faster last Saturday than American Pharoah and Honor Code have this year.
Beholder winning the Pacific Classic courtesy of Benoit Photo