01/08/2013 6:45PM

2012 Eclipse Awards: Beholder

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photo by: Tom Keyser

Yes, the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies had a $2 million purse that was four times greater than the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint. And the Juvenile Fillies was the biggest race of the year for the division, which has been the case since its inception. By comparison the Juvenile Sprint, at least at this early stage of its existence, is basically a novelty.

Nevertheless, the choice to run Beholder in the Juvenile Fillies instead of the Juvenile Sprint couldn’t at the time have been as easy as it might now appear. Beholder would have been the strong favorite in the Juvenile Sprint, which, even with a purse that was a fraction of what the Juvenile Fillies was offering, was still a $500,000 race well worth winning. Beholder was not going to be the favorite for the Juvenile Fillies. Not going 1 1/16 miles around two turns for the first time, not even on the heels of an allowance victory that was giant in terms of both final time and 11-length win margin, simply because the Juvenile Fillies was 2 1/2 furlongs and one turn longer than any race she had previously won.

To be sure, the decision by owner B. Wayne Hughes, master of Spendthrift Farm, and trainer Richard Mandella to run Beholder in the Juvenile Fillies was a high-risk move. But it also carried a potentially high reward, one that paid off handsomely with Beholder’s front-running, one-length win putting her on the brink of a divisional Eclipse Award. It should be noted, however, that this fateful decision was no mere roll of the dice. Although Mandella was sufficiently unsure of Beholder’s mental preparedness for two turns as late as Sept. 29 to have scratched his filly off the program from the Chandelier Stakes in favor of a six-furlong allowance race five days later, the Hall of Fame trainer saw a change in his filly that led him to change his mind about her.

As an aside, scratching from the Chandelier had to be maddening for Beholder’s connections after Executiveprivilege not only romped in the race, but won in the manner she did. Executiveprivilege, who nosed Beholder in the Del Mar Debutante early in the month, took the Chandelier on a speed-biased track with the sort of front-running trip that would have been Beholder’s.

In any case, as the Breeders’ Cup approached, Mandella explained the change he saw in Beholder. “The day after I scratched her, she started settling down, and she stayed settled down,” he said. “Her work the other day,” a five-furlong move eight days prior to Breeders’ Cup Friday, and the work that clinched a start in the Juvenile Fillies for Beholder, “we got her off the bridle, she relaxed real nice. The last 50 yards, she jumped right into it.”

Yet as relaxed as she might have been in the morning, Beholder ran hard every step of the way in the Juvenile Fillies under Garrett Gomez, the only jockey she has known. A daughter of Henny Hughes out of Leslie’s Lady, by Tricky Creek, who was purchased for $180,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September sale from her breeder, Clarkland Farm, she went her opening quarter-mile in 22.62 seconds, which was faster than the best older females in the land went their first quarter in the Ladies’ Classic later the same day. Then, speed-favoring track or not, Beholder was courageous to repel all challenges. She became the 29th winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Twenty-five of the 28 who preceded her in that distinction were voted the Eclipse Award for champion 2-year-old filly.