11/01/2013 8:46PM

Breeders' Cup: Beholder, speed bias the talk of Friday's card

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Justin N. Lane
Pace-setting Goldencents took advantage of a track kind to speed to win the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Beholder strongly enhanced her chances of being named champion 3-year-old filly with an overpowering victory in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Friday at Santa Anita, a day when the speed-biased nature of the main track was a major talking point.

Beholder crushed both Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar, Eastern invaders who ran poorly. Royal Delta attended the early pace and was in front of Beholder early, but retreated to finish fourth. Despite the loss, she has the best overall resume in her division, the older fillies and mares, and likely will win an Eclipse Award for the third straight year.

[BREEDERS' CUP FRIDAY: Video replays and race results]

Princess of Sylmar lost her best chance at the start when she stumbled, but she never fired, finishing last. She surrendered any faint chance she had of being named Horse of the Year, and now may lose the 3-year-old filly title to Beholder.

Princess of Sylmar and Beholder split their two meetings this year, with Princess of Sylmar narrowly prevailing in the Kentucky Oaks. Both now have four Grade 1 wins for the year. But Beholder owns two wins against older fillies and mares, and made by far the best final impression.

Beholder won the Juvenile Fillies here a year ago, and is based here, so she had the home-track advantage. Princess of Sylmar had never raced in California.

Barbara D. Livingston
Beholder coasts to a 4 1/4-length win in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

It would be a shame if the day’s speed bias detracts from the quality of Beholder’s win, because, in fact, she did not directly benefit from it. There is no doubt the bias was a major factor in earlier races, particularly the Dirt Mile, but it seemed less so in the Distaff, where horses actually came from off the pace to do well.

Beholder stalked early, while wide, as Authenticity and Royal Delta set off after the lead. She passed those two, and drew off over Close Hatches, who rallied from fourth in the six-horse field to finish second. Authenticity was third.

The Distaff was the last of five Breeders’ Cup races run on Friday, with nine more to follow on Saturday.

Improbable longshots did well in early, non-Breeders’ Cup races, so by the time the Dirt Mile was run, the bias impacted the way it unfolded. Goldencents had drawn the outside post in a field of 12, so jockey Rafael Bejarano sent him hard from the gate to try to get the lead. Despite setting blazing fractions of 22.12 seconds for the opening-quarter mile, 44.75 seconds for a half-mile, and 1:08.64 for six furlongs, he widened his lead from that point to midstretch before coasting home 2 3/4 lengths best in 1:35.12.

“It’s speed favoring,” said trainer Doug O’Neill, who said he and Bejarano had similar thoughts on strategy.

“He kind of had that in his mind, and we loved hearing it,” O’Neill said.

Goldencents has won a pair of Grade 1 races this year, having captured the Santa Anita Derby in April. But that is unlikely to give him enough momentum to get the Eclipse Award for 3-year-old male, a title that could be decided in the BC Classic on Saturday between Palace Malice and Will Take Charge.

It was a warm, 86-degree afternoon, but the weather did nothing to stop the Europeans, who won three of the Breeders’ Cup races - the Marathon on dirt, and both grass races, the Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf.

London Bridge rallied to win the 1 3/4-mile Marathon in his first race on dirt on and on Lasix.

London Bridge was ridden by Mike Smith, who came right back to take the Juvenile Turf with Outstrip in race in which Europeans ran one-two.

Smith has now won a record 19 BC races. Jerry Bailey, now retired, is next with 15.

The Juvenile Fillies Turf went to Chriselliam, who is owned in part by Willie Carson, the former jockey perhaps best known in Breeders’ Cup lore for being aboard Dayjur when he jumped shadows in deep stretch of the Sprint at Belmont Park in 1990, surrendering the race to Safely Kept.

Lasix is not permitted in 2-year-old races at this year’s Breeders’ Cup. Both winners had never raced on the medication, as opposed to the runners who had last raced in the United States and were forced to come off it. The best a U.S. runner could do in the Juvenile Turf was finish third. Horses who last raced in North America were second, third, and fourth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

None of the 2-year-old races are expected to have an impact on the Eclipse Awards for their respective divisions. Those titles should be decided in Saturday’s dirt races, the Juvenile Fillies and Juvenile.

Two horses were eased. Ever Rider was pulled up in the Marathon, suffering from nothing more than exhaustion.

Centralinteligence needed to be removed from the track in the horse ambulance because of an injury to his the knee in his right front leg, which X-rays revealed was a fracture of his cannon bone, according to Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, an on-call veterinarian with the American Association of Equine Practitioners.