Regardless of the competition or the distance, Spendthrift Farm's Beholder just keeps rolling along.
Turning back to a mile for the first time since September of 2013, the daughter of Henny Hughes raced just off crawling fractions set by stretch-out sprinter Lost Bus, took command without any asking from Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens in the final turn, and effortlessly held off a late drive from fellow champion Stellar Wind to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Stevens hand-rode the 6-year-old mare to the wire to finish in 1:35.97 on a fast main track for her eighth straight win, all in stakes competition. She has 10 grade I victories for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella.
"Just another great effort," Mandella said. "She continues to amaze us all. There was a time when we didn't think she'd go long. She seems to adjust to what we're doing. I'm lucky to experience something that very few people in history have—to have a great horse this long.
"Good horses come along, and there are a few great ones, but to be great and stay great, it really is special."
Beholder broke well from post 2, and Stevens was able to get her out from the inside as Lost Bus cleared the field from post 5 and hit the front going into the first turn. With fractions of :25.03 and :49.31 through a half-mile, Beholder was only a half-length back in second, then took her own half-length advantage as six furlongs went in 1:12.53. Stellar Wind loomed on the rail under jockey Victor Espinoza and found space in the stretch, but never made a serious challenge.
"If someone told me before the race that we would go :25 for the first quarter, I would say 'no way,' " Stevens said. "I thought we would go in sub-:23, :45 and change for the second (quarter-mile), and I thought the final time would be under 1:34."
"I almost wondered if it was a mistake when I saw :25," Mandella added. "I didn't think you could do that, but you've seen her work. She'll work really slow if we want, and she'll work fast if we want. She's really turned into a professional."
Stellar Wind, the 2015 champion 3-year-old filly, ran well in her first start off a more than seven-month layoff, following her second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I).
"She ran an awesome race," Espinoza said. "I expected her to run well, but not as well as she did today. This one will prove big for the next one."
Beholder paid $2.40, $2.10, and $2.10 across the board as the 1-5 favorite. Stellar Wind, the 3-1 second choice, delivered $2.20 and $2.10. Finest City, another stretch-out sprinter, completed the trifecta and brought $2.40 to show. With $791,272 of the $854,497 show pool wagered on Beholder, Santa Anita and other aligned wagering interests lost $160,051.41 and also saw a $4,650.95 loss on a negative place pool.
Beholder has a 17-3-0 record from 22 starts, with more than $4.7 million in earnings.
Spendthrift owner B. Wayne Hughes said the "Breeders' Cup in November is the main goal" for his standout racemare, but also that another run in the Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar against males "is our intention right now."
"It was a nice effort and I'm glad the pressure is off," Hughes said. "Every time everyone expects your horse to win, I think it adds pressure. No real unbelievable news will happen, unless you lose."