To her breeders, Beholder a beauty that's caught many an eye (Part 2)
The second of two parts. You can read the first part here.
Beholder's attempt to win a third consecutive division title frustratingly ended less than two weeks prior to the 2014 Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) when she spiked a fever. Possessing an undefeated record around two turns at Santa Anita, the site of the Distaff, she would have stood a strong chance of stripping the older female title away from pro-tem leader Close Hatches, whose form entering the Distaff was on a downward curve.
The illness also prevented Beholder from traveling after the Breeders' Cup to Kentucky, where she was entered in the Fasig-Tipton November Sale. Scratched from the sale, it was concurrently decided to keep the mare in training as a five-year-old.
The decision has paid off in spades. Having run out of competition in the filly-and-mare ranks in Southern California following three consecutive wins, including the Clement L. Hirsch (G1) by seven lengths, her connections decided to take on the boys in the Pacific Classic (G1). Made the 2-1 favorite despite never having tried 1 1/4 miles, Beholder walloped her foes by 8 1/4 lengths, thus becoming the first female ever to win the $1 million event.
"The Pacific Classic is one of those races none of us will ever forget," said Fred Mitchell, co-owner with wife Nancy and daughter Marty Buckner of Clarkland Farm, which bred Beholder. The Mitchells were not in attendance at Del Mar that day, but instead watched from home on television.
"They probably could've heard us from Rupp Arena [in downtown Lexington]," Mitchell said. "That is a race that will probably go down in history that my grandkids and great-grandkids will probably read about sometime down the road."
That emphatic, division-transcending victory all but clinched a third division title for Beholder and her first as champion older female. It also suggested that the Breeders' Cups biggest prize, the $5 million Classic (G1), was worth pursuing rather than $2 million Distaff, another victory in which would not significantly enhance Beholder's legacy.
"She has nothing to lose running in the Breeders' Cup Classic," Mitchell said.
In a normal year, victories in two open races like the Breeders' Cup Classic and Pacific Classic would give a mare like Beholder a huge advantage in the race for Horse of the Year honors. However, it will be hard to sway the hearts and minds of a majority of voters away from American Pharoah, who in June became the first horse to sweep the Triple Crown in 37 years. Mitchell believes the outcome of the Classic should decide racing's top award.
"It's hard to say that you wouldn't vote a Triple Crown winner [as Horse of the Year], but if she happens to beat him, she is the best horse and the best horse ought to be Horse of the Year," Mitchell said. "And if he beats her, he should undoubtedly be. It shouldn't be a close vote, it should be a landslide."
Mitchell said an additional recognition should be coming their way if Beholder wins the Classic. "I think [Leslie's Lady] should be Broodmare of the Year if she wins the Classic," said Mitchell, referring to the honor awarded annually by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.
Following Beholder, Leslie's Lady produced two offspring by Curlin. The latter, an unraced two-year-old filly named Leslie's Harmony, sold for $1.1 million last year and is now with trainer Todd Pletcher.
"They're in love with her," Mitchell said. "She was unbelievable [at the sale]."
Unfortunately, Leslie's Lady has had difficulties in recent years. According to Mitchell, she had surgery for colic after delivering her now-yearling filly by Eskendereya. Subsequent complications and a near-fatal illness caused her to absorb her next foal, by Scat Daddy. Bred back to that stallion after recovering, she delivered a colt this past May 16.
"We did not breed her back [this year]," Mitchell said. "We can get at most two other foals out of her. She's in great shape, she looks good."
When asked who Leslie's Lady might visit in the breeding shed next year, Mitchell said he's been thinking about Medaglia d'Oro. The septuagenarian Mitchell also pondered what the family might do with that potential offspring.
"I'd love to have a filly out of [Leslie's Lady] to keep, but the way the pedigree has gotten and my age...I don't know, you're talking five or six years down the road to [possibly] get a filly out of her. We'd probably go ahead and put her in the sales, although she might bring too much money for me to buy her back," Mitchell said with a laugh.
(Beholder photo: Benoit Photos)