08/15/2016 3:36PM

Mandella seeks his fifth Pacific Classic win with Beholder

Emily Shields
Beholder won last year's Pacific Classic by 8 1/4 lengths.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Four times, Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella has walked into the winner’s circle of the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar. His first and most recent visits are part of the race’s lore.

This season marks the 20-year anniversary of Mandella’s first win in the Pacific Classic, when Dare and Go, a 39-1 shot, posted a stunning upset of Cigar and ended that famous horse’s 16-race winning streak.

“It seems like yesterday,” Mandella recalled last weekend.

Last year, the Mandella-trained Beholder became the first female to win the Pacific Classic with an emphatic victory by 8 1/4 lengths. The win defines the career of the three-time champion and remains a sentimental favorite for Mandella, 65.

“It was pretty special,” he said. “When she blew by those horses, it shocked me.”

Add wins by Gentlemen in 1997 and Pleasantly Perfect in 2004, and Mandella’s position in Pacific Classic history is secure. Mandella, however, may not be far from another win: Beholder is part of the field, one of the strongest in recent years, for Saturday’s Pacific Classic.

The race is led by California Chrome, the 2014 Horse of the Year who won the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March. California Chrome will be a strong favorite, but there will be support for Beholder.

“It never gets easier,” Mandella said. “It’s $1 million. You have to expect good horses.”

Beholder’s win in the 2015 Pacific Classic remains a career highlight for Mandella, along with winning four Breeders’ Cup races in a single day in 2003, sweeping the first three positions in the 1997 Hollywood Gold Cup, and winning the Dubai World Cup in 2004 with Pleasantly Perfect. A second win by Beholder would assuredly join that list.

Mandella is the second-leading trainer in Pacific Classic history, behind the late Bobby Frankel, who won the race six times, including four consecutive runnings, from 1992 to 1995.

Beholder has won three Eclipse Awards, including the 2015 honor as champion older female. She is the only one of Mandella’s Pacific Classic winners to be honored with a championship. Cigar was champion older male of 1996. Gentlemen lost the award to Skip Away in 1997.

The Pacific Classic was launched in 1991 with a popular win by the 3-year-old Best Pal, who was trained at the time by Gary Jones. Three years later, Best Pal was in Mandella’s stable and was his first starter in the Pacific Classic, finishing second to the Frankel-trained Tinners Way. In 1995, Mandella’s Soul of the Matter was second to Tinners Way.

The heavily favored Cigar had only five rivals in the 1996 Pacific Classic; Mandella trained two of them – Siphon, the 6-1 second choice, and Dare and Go, the second-longest shot in the field. Siphon and Cigar dueled for the lead for a mile before Dare and Go rallied three wide entering the stretch to reach contention. Dare and Go, ridden by Alex Solis, took the lead with a furlong to go and won by 3 1/2 lengths. When he crossed the finish line, the audience was eerily quiet for a big race.

“It was silent by the time they went to the wire,” he said.

There was a similar element of surprise at Del Mar on July 30, when Beholder finished second to Stellar Wind in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at odds of 1-10. Stellar Wind, trained by John Sadler, was the champion 3-year-old filly of 2015 and beat Beholder for the first time in the Hirsch.

“What goes around comes around,” Mandella said. “John Sadler did it to me two weeks ago.”

Despite the loss, Beholder trained well enough in early August for Mandella to plan for a start in the Pacific Classic. Over the weekend, he spoke highly of her condition and his hopes for Saturday.

“I had no pressure last year and none this year,” he said. “I have a lot of confidence in her. I hope she can do it again.”

MollyJulia624 6 months ago
California Chrome 3-5 & Beholder 8-5 & Dortmund 9-5 & Hoppertunity 8-1?
ProXstream Gaming 6 months ago
Is Hoppertunity running ?  Not as good as the big boys ( and girls ) in here,  but there will surely be a fast pace, and it's 1 1/4 miles.  
gamblerdrew 6 months ago
I read he's pointing for Woodward but Baffert  hinted there was a small chance he will change plans to go in p. classic
Jo Jo Diddly Jackson 6 months ago
Going g to be a barn burner.