10/29/2015 12:12PM

Breeders’ Cup: Marquee matchup vanishes with scratch of Beholder

Barbara D. Livingston
Beholder was scratched from Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic after blood was found in her trachea following a routine gallop Thursday.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – From the time Beholder arrived here at Keeneland more than a week ago with a temperature one degree above normal, trainer Richard Mandella kept checking and rechecking her health, drawing blood, scoping her lungs after her work and gallops. He was looking for something, anything, but hoping not to find anything.

Through Wednesday, all was fine. Her most-recent blood work had come back perfect, and she was training great.

And then came Thursday.

Beholder went out for a routine gallop, but when she came back and was examined – yet again – this time there was blood in her trachea and, Mandella said, “a little irritation in her lungs.” As a result, Beholder had to be scratched from the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, the marquee race of the two-day Breeders’ Cup, which concludes Saturday.

Mandella said that owner B. Wayne Hughes indicated he would like to campaign Beholder yet again at age 6 next year, when the Breeders’ Cup will be held again at Santa Anita. Beholder has won two Breeders’ Cup races there, the Juvenile Fillies in 2012 and the Distaff in 2013. She has won 15 times in 20 starts and beat males in the Pacific Classic.

A potential matchup against American Pharoah, the Triple Crown winner, loomed in the Classic. But there was no choice but to scratch Beholder after what happened Thursday.

“When she first got the temperature, Mr. Hughes looked me right in the eye and said, ‘If you don’t think she’s right, you don’t have to run,’ ” Mandella said. “But after the initial high temperature, I never had any concern. She had done great. But we finally found something.

“I really can’t say what a good feeling it was to have Mr. Hughes say what he did when we first got here. Every trainer should be lucky to have an owner like that.”

Beholder had traveled twice previously from California for races. She was second in the 2013 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs after losing her composure in the post parade, then was fourth in the 2014 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park while getting cut badly during the race. She took ill just before last year’s Distaff at Santa Anita and missed the race, but Hughes decided then to bring her back at age 5 instead of selling her, which had been his initial plan.

Beholder would have been the second choice in the Classic. It is still a terrific field, with American Pharoah, Honor Code, Keen Ice, and Tonalist, winners of some of the most important races in the country. Among them, they have won a Kentucky Derby, Preakness, two Belmonts, the Met Mile, the Whitney, the Travers, and two runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup. But seeing a mare like Beholder face males was the second-most-compelling aspect of the Classic behind American Pharoah trying to close out his brilliant career with a victory.

As of Thursday, there was one other expected scratch from Saturday’s program, with Tale of S’avall likely to come out of the Juvenile. His defection would allow Siding Spring to draw in from the also-eligible list.

Scratch time for Saturday’s card is 8 a.m. Friday. That is the last chance for any remaining also-eligibles to get into their races.

The Classic is the 11th race on a 12-race card which begins at 11 a.m. Eastern. Post time for the Classic is scheduled for 5:35 p.m. It will be shown live on NBC as part of a two-hour telecast beginning at 4 p.m. Most of the earlier races will be seen live on NBCSN during a three-hour telecast that begins at 1 p.m.

There are two listed stakes to start the day, followed by nine straight Breeders’ Cup races before another listed stakes to close out the card.

The Classic is preceded by eight other Breeders’ Cup races. Among the highlights are Arc de Triomphe winner Golden Horn in the Turf; Runhappy and Private Zone ready to turn on the jets in the Sprint; Stephanie’s Kitten trying to win a second Breeders’ Cup race in the Filly and Mare Turf four years after she won her first in the Juvenile Fillies Turf; Songbird taking on Rachel Alexandra’s daughter Rachel’s Valentina in the Juvenile Fillies; and defending race winners Bobby’s Kitten (Turf Sprint), Judy the Beauty (Filly and Mare Sprint), and Karakontie (Mile) seeking to repeat their performances of a year ago.

The National Weather Service forecast is for cloudy skies and a high temperature of 61 degrees. It was expected to be cool and dry on both Thursday and Friday after steady, soaking rain Monday through Wednesday.