08/28/2012 12:54PM

Del Mar: Mandella hoping Beholder can bring some excitement in Debutante

Shigeki Kikkawa
Beholder, trained by Richard Mandella, will make her next start in Saturday's Del Mar Debutante.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Richard Mandella has made his mark in the last 20 years with older horses who have won races throughout the world.

This weekend, a 2-year-old filly may carry his stable to its biggest win of the year.

Beholder starts in Saturday’s $300,000 Del Mar Debutante, a key prep race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.

Mandella has had success with 2-year-old fillies in the past – notably the 2003 division champion Halfbridled – but it is his greater success with older horses that put him in racing’s Hall of Fame in 2001.

A Henny Hughes filly owned by B. Wayne Hughes, Beholder won her second start, which came in a maiden race here July 22. She won the 5 1/2-furlong maiden race by 3 1/4 lengths and will be stretching out to seven furlongs in the Grade 1 Debutante.

Mandella has seen development from Beholder in recent weeks. When she worked six furlongs in 1:14 last Saturday, she was not urged, typical of her works since she arrived from Kentucky in the spring.

“She showed us nice stuff from the start,” Mandella said. “She was pretty fit. We never asked her to do it. We were looking for slower times than she wanted to do. She’s still doing that, and that’s a good sign.”

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The 61-year-old Mandella has won 17 million-dollar races, including six in the Breeders’ Cup, but he has endured a quiet patch in recent years. His last Grade 1 win was Champ Pegasus’s victory in the Clement Hirsch Stakes at Hollywood Park in 2010.

Last year, his stable won five stakes, 28 races, and earned $1,886,494. By comparison, he won 51 races and more than $9.8 million in 2003, the year he won four Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita. That day surpassed his two Breeders’ Cup wins at Santa Anita in 1993.

Those days are missed around the stable.

“I liked ‘03 better and ‘93 wasn’t bad,” he said.

Mandella still trains Champ Pegasus, now 6, who is nearing his first start since a second in the 2011 Clement Hirsch. He was second in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Turf behind Dangerous Midge. Another of Mandella’s older horses, the 5-year-old Setsuko, has been sidelined since his runner-up finish in the Santa Anita Handicap last March and is out of training until 2013.

Mandella has trained many major-stakes-winning older horses, including Dare and Go, Gentlemen, Kotashaan, Pleasantly Perfect, Siphon, Sandpit, and The Tin Man.

“I miss having the old horses that were around,” Mandella said. “We used to have so many.

“Sometime along the line, I fell out of favor for people sending me horses from Europe or South America. I am taking applications.”

His stable is down from 70 horses about five years ago to 34 at Del Mar this summer.

In recent years, Mandella’s personal focus has changed. He is closely allied with Gerald Ford of Dallas, who raced Pleasantly Perfect and owns Diamond A Farm in Kentucky. Diamond A Farm is largely a commercial enterprise, and Mandella is part of the team that assesses the farm’s yearling prospects before sales. Those yearlings are meant to be sold; very few race for Mandella.

“You’ve got to tell people that you’ll sell the good ones or they won’t buy from you,” he said. “That’s the idea of having that farm. It takes a lot of money to keep that farm rolling.”

Hughes, also active as a breeder, bought Beholder for $180,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale. If she runs well Saturday, Beholder will move closer to a start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

This weekend could provide the highlight of the year for Mandella. Aside from Beholder, he also runs Jimmy Creed in Friday’s $100,000 El Cajon Stakes for 3-year-olds. Smart Ellis runs for Mandella in Sunday’s $300,000 Del Mar Derby.

A win in a major stakes race or two would put Mandella back at the forefront of the national racing scene. It is something that he has missed.

“We don’t have the excitement,” he said. “It makes you appreciate it.”