03/23/2016 2:46PM

Hovdey: Beholder waiting in the wings


Taris and Tara’s Tango put on a good show in the Santa Margarita Stakes at Santa Anita last weekend. Taris ran too good not to win, while Tara’s Tango ran better and did. They both will be heard from in the division of older fillies and mares this year – both possess admirable range and considerable class – but they might as well get on a van. As far as the major events on the West Coast are concerned, the opening acts have cleared the darkened stage. The crowd is hushed. The spotlight comes up. Cue Adele.

I mean, Beholder. It’s an easy mistake.

Last Saturday’s Santa Margarita was upstaged the day before by a simple, little half-mile work. Simple, as in a Monet brush stroke or a Bill Evans chord. Lots of horses can do four furlongs in 48 seconds and cruise out another eighth of a mile in a minute flat. Not so many can do it with one hoof tied behind their back.

“She did it at an open gallop,” said Gary Young, clocker to the stars. “They gave her a breeze. It was an understatement.”

Gary Stevens was caught later walking through Clocker’s Corner tripping over his own grin. To describe him as a mere passenger aboard Beholder for the work was not quite right. He was more like a stowaway.

“I was afraid to move,” Stevens said. “If I’d done anything, she would have taken off.”

Then there was her trainer, Richard Mandella, sporting a natty, wide-brimmed straw hat protecting him from California’s late-winter sun and dancing a little jig as he headed back to the barn checking his watch, again and again. He believed what he saw, but as President Reagan famously said, “Trust but verify.”

“It’s my style not to let them work hard every time,” Mandella said. “I try to build them up, and along with that, there will be a good work here and there. Of course, an average work for her is a special work for most horses. I’ve got a few that struggle with a minute and change.

“She’s always been easy to get ready,” the trainer added. “If you want her to go fast, she’ll go as fast as you want. If you want her to go easy, she’ll cooperate with that. I think there probably will be something the first week of May here at Santa Anita. Let’s say I’m hoping.”

The return of Beholder has become the most anticipated event of the young year, even though at the age of 6, with three championship seasons behind her, she has nothing to prove. And yet there lingers the titillating idea that there is one last flourish to her remarkable career awaiting at the end of the year.

That would be the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a home game Nov. 5 against whatever team the males can muster. Before that come races like the Adoration Stakes on May 8 and the Vanity Mile on June 4 at Santa Anita, the Clement L. Hirsch and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, and the Zenyatta Stakes back at Santa Anita in late September, on the doorstep of the Breeders’ Cup.

Still, a harsh truth must be acknowledged. For Beholder’s fans, it has been a mistake to project too far down the road. In 2014, she was knocked out of a defense of her Breeders’ Cup Distaff title by a virus. Last year, her early campaign was interrupted by another illness, and then, on the brink of her showdown with American Pharoah in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Beholder bled twice in gallops at Keeneland and was withdrawn. Mandella was asked if he keeps her in a hermetically sealed stall wrapped in plastic.

“We’re careful with her,” he said, ignoring the wisecrack. “But saying that, if we had any thought she wasn’t strong enough to do this, we would just send her home and breed her. We scoped her after a couple of works, including her last one, and she’s clean as a whistle. We’ve X-rayed her lungs, and there’s nothing there of any alarm, so we’re in good shape, we think.”

Mandella rode into the Hall of Fame on the tails of such older male stars as Kotashaan, Pleasantly Perfect, Gentlemen, Siphon, and Sandpit. As for older females of a certain age and ability, there were not many, and for good reason.

“When they’ve done something good, breeding them and selling the babies is pretty lucrative, so you don’t see them around at 6,” Mandella said. “And she was close to that, remember? She was in that November sale.”

She was. Owner B. Wayne Hughes had consigned Beholder in 2014, then pulled her from the auction when she fell sick before the Breeders’ Cup. As viruses go, that one was not serious but very fortuitous. When she recovered, Hughes put her back in training.

“I think Mr. Hughes took it into consideration that if you are an owner who wants to race – which he is – how would you find a better racehorse?” Mandella said. “How many would you have to buy to give yourself a chance to have one this good? What, a couple of crops of yearlings?”

The point was taken. Beholder is not just another blue-hen broodmare in waiting, commodified for her potential as bloodstock. She has been that rara avis, one of a kind, and very much to Mandella’s delight.

“That’s the reason she’s here,” he said.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beholder a horse who has yet to run in the money outside of Califorina.
Jay Hovdey More than 1 year ago
Unless you count her second in the Ky. Oaks, when she unseated Gomez in the post parade that took the field through a narrow gap between the starting gate and the crowd. As for the Phipps, recall that she came back from that with a deep gash in a leg suffered early in the race. Otherwise you're right. She's a clearly cow. Plenty of others for you to enjoy. Whoever you are.
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
She gets sick the last three times he works her more than 40 furlongs in two month periods. Now you have to watch for bleeding through the lasix with an older mare.
Jay Hovdey More than 1 year ago
Interesting observation of a horse who won three Gr. 1 races in 57 days last summer. But you're right, Dr. X, those half-miles works can be a killer.
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
52 furlongs before the 2015 breeders cup. Fever, scratched before may 9, 2015 vanity stakes. Fever , scratched before the 2014 breeders cup. Wasnt the furlong number in the mid 50s for the last two i mentioned ?
Ffm Web More than 1 year ago
The Santa Anita Handicap and Santa Margarita have been nothing but major disappointments. B Level horses running for A Level purses. The SA Cap suffered from "Dubai Fever" participants. I realize Beholdrers connections are campaigning for a potential BC Classic win. Sad that that a Sprinter like Taris and a semi-seasoned runner like Tara's Tango becomes the cream of one of the most talent deficient Santa Margarita's in years. And they wonder why fewer fans show up at the track. Really????
Joseph Bahadoor More than 1 year ago
I have a tip for the Mandella Grow a pair and come east to KY, NYC and Run!!! Its amazing how West Coast horses get so much praise for beating nothing!!! Lets See last time she left the State what happened?? Oh I sorry ride by Gary Stevens and 4th place in NYC!!! The time before that was her best race she ever ran!!! A gut wrenching 2nd at CD in the Kentucky Oaks with Garrett Gomez!!!! This Year its put up or shut the Hell UP!!!!
Christopher More than 1 year ago
So, who is it that you think could beat her? No mare in America me thinks, so which male you got?
David Stanfill More than 1 year ago
looking forward to california chrone beholder matchup
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
You should be asking"Why don't the East coast horses come out to run against her in these easy picking Gr1s.Most trainers ship by neccessity.
Keith More than 1 year ago
Ah, the venomous east coast has spoken. Planes fly in both directions buddy boy. These races carry nice purses and with "nothing!!!" to run against, well sounds like easy money to me. Yet, no one wants to cross the Mason Dixon line. Careful now, any argument you make goes both ways. Truth is your east coast owners prefer to stay home. Right?
Keith More than 1 year ago
I'm sorry, which coast did AP and CC come from?
David Stanfill More than 1 year ago
And zenyatta!
saratogajunkie More than 1 year ago
Me thinks she'll make a lot more money racing than breeding her this year would have brought...hope she gets all the way to the Classic.
David Stanfill More than 1 year ago
thanks jay for heads up on beholder. looking forward to watching her beat all rivals at santa anita, alice s. rph