10/19/2015 2:42PM

Beholder arrives for Classic showdown

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Barbara D. Livingston
Two-time champion mare Beholder arrives at Keeneland on Monday.

Champion racemare Beholder arrived at Keeneland on Monday to begin final preparations for her Breeders' Cup Classic showdown with American Pharoah, Honor Code, and the rest.

The 5-year-old mare arrived at Barn 60 in Keeneland's Rice Road barn area, where all the Breeders' Cup horses will be housed, shortly before 2 p.m. Eastern, following a flight that departed this morning from California bound for Lexington's Blue Grass Airport, just across the road from the track. Also arriving on the flight were Classic candidate Smooth Roller and Dressed in Hermes, who is possible for the Juvenile Turf.

This marked just the third trip outside of California for Beholder, who finished second in the 2013 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs and fourth in the 2014 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park, emerging from the latter with a cut on her leg that kept her out of action for several months. The mare's high-strung personality – she famously melted down behind the starting gate before the Oaks – has been one factor in limiting her travel. Trainer Richard Mandella said it also influenced his decision to try the mare in the Pacific Classic against males this summer, where Beholder won by 8 1/4 lengths to punch her ticket to the Classic.

"I thought, 'I need another race, but I don't really want to take her anywhere. If I take her somewhere, I want it to be right here for the Breeders' Cup,’ ” Mandella said. “Because she is excitable, you all saw her come off the van. ... So, I thought, 'I can leave her right here and just try and beat the colts.' "

Indeed, Beholder had one brief loss of composure Monday as she was led to her barn, spooking and leaping on the horse path as Mandella kept a firm grip on the shank. The trainer said the filly has mellowed – somewhat – as she's gotten older.

"It's all similar, but she is a little better than she was when she was younger. Now it's just moments," Mandella said. "She's always had a lot of raw talent, and over the years, she's developed mentally into a professional racehorse."

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After spending a night settling in, Mandella said Beholder will tour the Keeneland track for the first time with "a simple, short gallop" on Tuesday morning. The date of her final pre-race breeze is undecided.

“It will be four, five, or six days out,” Mandella said. “It will just be a maintenance work.”