One year after losing the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) by a nose, champion filly Beholder returns to Del Mar in the Torrey Pines Stakes Sept. 1.
It will be her first start since the Spendthrift Farm product finished a game second to Princess of Sylmar in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 3 at Churchill Downs. Beholder, who battled pacesetter Midnight Lucky into the stretch, opened a two-length advantage but could not fend off the hard-charging Princess of Sylmar, who produced a 38-1 upset by half a length.
Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella remembers the feeling in the instant after an earlier tough beat, the photo finish between his Beholder and Bob Baffert's Executiveprivilege in last year's Del Mar Debutante. The two excellent 2-year-old fillies hit the wire together, Beholder well to the inside, Executiveprivilege out in the the middle of the track.
"Usually I talk myself down after a race so that if I'm surprised it's for the good, not the bad," Mandella said Aug. 29. "The other filly was so far outside, I really thought (Beholder) won and we all celebrated until somebody grabbed my coattail and said, 'You better look at it again."
Executiveprivilege prevailed by the barest of margins in the Debutante, but Beholder turned the tables two months later in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park and then was voted the Eclipse Award for the division.
The daughter of Henny Hughes will return from a four-month layoff Sept. 1 in the $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on the main track.
"She came out of it fine, but she had a tough time with the excitement there, so I gave her a little rest," Mandella said of the Kentucky Oaks experience. "I'd put her through a pretty tough task to go to the Kentucky Oaks, knowing that it wouldn't be easy for her mentally. She did the best she could, and I couldn't have been prouder of her unless she'd have won the race. And she almost won."
Having a national champion in the Torrey Pines is without precedent, but Mandella has his reasons for the choice.
"To build my confidence," Mandella said first, resorting to his typical wry humor. "It's a mile here on the main track. We gave her the time off figuring we'd get her here, build her confidence back up and get her a race. We know she'll get a mile very well. We'll see how she does and then we'll decide which direction she goes after that."
Beholder has six works over the Polytrack surface since July 17, the opening day of the meeting, and four of them were the fastest of the day at the distance. She went five furlongs in :58 3/5 July 24, six furlongs in 1:12 2/5 Aug. 5, seven furlongs in 1:26 2/5 Aug. 14 and a mile in 1:38 4/5 Aug. 21.
"I wasn't aware of that. I knew she was going well but I didn't compare her works with others," Mandella said. "I was just kind of happy with it. We weren't trying to make her go fast, she's just good."
Beholder will face five opponents in the Torrey Pines, including grade III winner Charlie Em and stakes-winning Miss Empire.
Bred in Kentucky by Clarkland Farm out of the Tricky Creek mare Leslie's Lady, Beholder has won five of nine starts with three seconds and earnings of 1,765,000.