Richard Mandella greets Beholder after her Breeders' Cup Distaff victory

Richard Mandella greets Beholder after her Breeders' Cup Distaff victory

Skip Dickstein

Mandella: Beholder is Unlike Any Other

Hall of Fame horseman dreading his three-time champion's inevitable departure.

The beat goes on for a horseman.

After a thrilling victory or a stunning defeat, a debut win or a final race—there's always the next morning.

Richard Mandella had legs to feel, instructions to exercise riders to give, and shedrow walkers to examine Nov. 5.

The beat went on, as it always does, but Mandella doesn't want to think about moving on from the bay mare who gave one final brilliant display Nov. 4 at Santa Anita Park.

"I don't want to think about her leaving until I have to," Mandella said of Spendthrift Farm's Beholder, who battled and edged Songbird in a Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) for the ages a day before.

BALAN: Beholder Noses Out Songbird in BC Distaff

The Hall of Fame conditioner has had his share of great horses, but the three-time champion—and maybe four-time soon enough—is just different. He can't put his finger on what makes her more special than the others, but he doesn't have to—she just is.

"I guess it's that she's a filly and kind of affectionate," Mandella said of his relationship, bordering on father and daughter, with Beholder. "Having her from 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6—I mean, we've had horses until they were 10, horses like Sandpit and The Tin Man. But, I don't know, there's just something special about her."

Talking Saturday morning, Mandella kept dropping hints he might make a final plea to keep her at the racetrack, clinging to the possibility that she could maybe—just maybe—stay home for a little while longer, but he ultimately gave in.

"I'm like a prisoner waiting for a call from the governor, so I can keep her a little longer," he joked. "But I don't know the governor's number. If I did, I'd call him."

No phone calls were made last night, either. The constant congratulations and well wishers zapped Mandella's cell phone battery beyond rescue, but having a peaceful celebration dinner wasn't the worst thing in the world.

But remember, the beat goes on. There are more races to run Saturday, including Avenge's start in the Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT).

"Beholder and Avenge had a little talk last night," said Mandella, who was in a particularly playful mood. "We had the night watchman get them together and have a chat."

Beholder, Songbird, and second choice Stellar Wind (fourth) all came out of the Distaff well, according to their trainers.

The mood from the others, understandably, wasn't as gleeful.

For trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, whose Songbird is now the slimmest of noses away from a perfect 12-for-12 record, the prevailing sentiment was respect for his filly.

"I can't fault Songbird or Beholder," Hollendorfer said. "I'd never be disappointed in Songbird, no matter how she ran, because she's given us so much already.

"When you have a good horse—a horse that's on the Derby road or going into the Breeders' Cup—you're under the microscope. The questions that people ask are unanswered. The question in this race was, 'Can she run against older?' It's obvious she can, but we just came up short.

"You work hard to compete and achieve victory, and then we didn't get it. We're not disappointed in Songbird, but it's not a good feeling."