In the 31 runnings of the Breeders’ Cup, Santa Anita has held host duties eight times, with this year marking its ninth. Over the years, some historic battles have determined year end honors and a horse’s place in the history books on the storied grounds.
Breeders’ Cup Distaff winners at Santa Anita include many of the greatest racemares of all time. There was Lady’s Secret’s front-running romp in Santa Anita’s first year of hosting in 1986. That was just the cherry on top of a year that included eight Grade 1 victories for the D. Wayne Lukas trainee. When the Breeders’ Cup returned to Santa Anita in 1993, who could forget the stretch duel between three-year-old filly Hollywood Wildcat and the previous year’s Distaff winner, Champion Older Female, and future Hall of Famer Paseana? Jockey Eddie Delahoussaye even dropped the whip on Hollywood Wildcat as Paseana ranged up on her outside and the filly still had the grit to repel the challenge. Or how about in 2008 when Zenyatta flew past defending Distaff champion and Champion Older Female Ginger Punch, a six time Grade 1 winner, the multiple graded stakes winner Hystericalady, Chilean Horse of the Year Cocoa Beach, and the rest of a very deep field to win her first of three Breeders’ Cup races?
In 2013, our very own Beholder locked up her second Breeders’ Cup victory and her first win in the Distaff. Following her 2012 success in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Beholder took down a field of talented fillies and mares that included the prior year’s Distaff winner Royal Delta, dual Grade 1 winner and the following year’s Champion Older Mare Close Hatches, and four time Grade 1 winner Princess of Sylmar. In that victory Beholder successfully turned the tables on Princess of Sylmar, who had beaten her by a half-length in the Oaks, and secured herself the title of Champion Three-Year-Old Filly.
Unfortunately due to illness Beholder was forced to miss the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, and for the same reason she was scratched out of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic and an impending duel with Triple Crown champion American Pharoah. This year, Beholder heads into her final race, the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, with a career record of 17 victories and six seconds from 25 starts. She has only ever been out of the money two times in her long-lasting career, when in her debut race she was fourth and in her 2014 attempt at the G1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park she was also fourth.
Beholder’s victories include 10 Grade 1 races highlighted by two Breeders’ Cups and a romp over the boys in the G1 Pacific Classic. Throughout her career she has secured three Eclipse Awards, racing’s highest honor, joining an elite club of horses that have multiple to their name.
Her fifth year of racing has presented her with some of the most daunting tasks. The question of longevity hung overhead – can a six-year-old mare continue to perform at her peak? Beholder has faced her toughest challenges in 2016, including running against defending Champion Three-Year-Old filly Stellar Wind, who has bested “Queen B” in the G1 Clement Hirsch and the G1 Zenyatta Stakes this year – though her total winning margin is only three quarters of a length between the two races – and the brilliance that is the current highest-ranked horse in the world, California Chrome, who she ran second to in this year’s edition of the Pacific Classic. Since September of 2013, Beholder’s losses say as much about her as her victories do. She has won 12 of 16 races in that time span, and the four defeats have each come at the hands of a reigning or future Eclipse Award winner – Close Hatches in ’14, and Stellar Wind and California Chrome this year.
It is not up for debate – Beholder has already secured her spot in the history books. She is the only horse in the history of American racing that has won Grade 1 races consecutively from age two to six. She has three Eclipse Awards to her name already, and two Breeders’ Cups. Beholder’s willpower and determination, accompanied by her raw talent and her vast, supportive base of fans, has allowed her to reach this level of ‘legend’ status.
We cannot forget to thank the many humans that have helped Beholder reach her full potential. We are so grateful to Richard Mandella, who guided her through her career and ensured she achieve greatness, and the likes of Gary Stevens and Garrett Gomez, who both piloted her on her Eclipse-award winning campaigns. Janeen Painter who is her regular exercise rider, and Seth Semkin, Spendthrift’s racing manager who was wise enough to realize that Beholder was an absolute must-have. We can even give a nod to Beholder’s half-brother and current top sire Into Mischief, who led the Spendthrift team to look at Beholder in the first place after we had raced him and retired him to stud.
This year Beholder looks to face one of the toughest challenges of her life in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff as she lines up against two of last year’s fellow Eclipse Award winners – Stellar Wind and the undefeated, much regaled Songbird. Add to the field multiple Grade-1 winners I’m a Chatterbox and Forever Unbridled, and it may be considered one of the greatest Distaff fields of all time. The results of the race will most likely determine Champion Older Mare and rankings of the fillies and mares in the United States.
Regardless of this year’s Breeders’ Cup outcome, we at Spendthrift Farm could not be more grateful for the opportunities that such a wonderful mare as Beholder has provided us. Win or lose on November 4th, she has already cemented her place in history. She gives it her all in each race and leaves everything on the track. She has never once disappointed, she is a model of consistency over a five year career and holds a place so special in the hearts of everyone that she touches, be it at the Mandella barn, on the racetrack, or through a television set.
It has been decided that the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff will indeed be Beholder’s last start. Regardless of Friday’s outcome, Beholder will always be our champion and the champion of her fans. We could not be more proud of her for all that she has achieved in the course of five years, and we cannot wait to repay her with a long and happy retirement back home in Kentucky. Our staff at Spendthrift are eagerly awaiting her arrival, and you can bet she will be greeted with smiles, peppermints, and happy hearts. We can only hope that her future progeny will inherit her talent, and though that is a steep ask, we will forever be proud of what Beholder has accomplished in her lifetime. Spendthrift will always be indebted to Beholder and as much as we will miss the thrill of watching her on the racetrack, we are so looking forward to her second career as a broodmare and healthy, joyful retirement.