06/05/2016 10:35AM

Watchmaker: Beholder impressively disposes of Stellar Wind

Shigeki Kikkawa
Beholder's victory in the Vanity was her 10th in a Grade 1 event.

It says a lot about Beholder that the biggest nitpick anyone can seem to come up with concerning her victory in Saturday’s Vanity Mile at Santa Anita is that she was right on top of a slow early pace of 25.03 and 49.31 seconds.

Well, they weren’t exactly setting the Teletimer ablaze in the Vanity. That is true. But if that is the strongest criticism anyone has about what Beholder did Saturday, she’s doing great.

It wasn’t like Beholder was loose on a clear lead through those sluggish early splits. Now that would have been something to complain about. And it wasn’t like Beholder’s chief adversary Saturday, Stellar Wind, was greatly compromised by the slow pace, either. Stellar Wind was at something of a recency disadvantage making her first start since her excellent second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, and Beholder had the benefit of a prep race last month. But in terms of the pace, Stellar Wind was only one length behind Beholder for most of the run down the backstretch. Stellar Wind was right with the slow pace, too.

And in the end, it’s uncertain how much of a factor the recency issue really was, either. The margin between Beholder and runner-up Stellar Wind at the finish was only 1 1/2 lengths, but it felt like the Grand Canyon. Stellar Wind ran extremely well. She was dead game, and she is very, very good. But Beholder absolutely toyed with her. Toyed with her. Anyone who watched the Vanity knows the difference between Beholder and Stellar Wind on Saturday was far greater than what the result chart suggests.

This is an important point. Horses can and do win a bunch of stakes races, and build up massive fan clubs as a result. Beholder has done very well in this regard. The Vanity was her 10th career Grade 1 victory. She now has an overall record of 17 victories and three seconds from 22 career starts. And the 114 Beyer Figure she earned for winning the Pacific Classic last summer was the type of number you just don’t see that often anymore.

But there are critical distinctions between Beholder, and other prolific winners. For one, she beat a horse in Stellar Wind who is a champion. Now, you can argue all day if you want over whether Stellar Wind really deserved the 2015 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly, but you will be spitting into the wind. The fact of the matter is Stellar Wind won the vote, and decisively, garnering more than twice as many votes as the fillies who finished second and third in the voting. Beholder beat a full-fledged champion in the prime of her career, and did so easily.

The other thing that distinguishes Beholder is that Pacific Classic performance. She not only faced males that day, but also did so at a 1 1/4-mile distance she never previously attempted, and at which she was a bit of a question mark. She stepped way out of her comfort zone, and I’ll forever be a fan because of it. And all she did was win by more than eight lengths, and run very fast doing it.

Catch a Glimpse pulled a page out of the Beholder playbook Saturday by facing males in the Penn Mile at Penn National and she went wire to wire to win her seventh straight race, and remain undefeated on turf. Give Catch a Glimpse credit for stepping out of the box and succeeding. She’s very good, and I certainly do not think otherwise.

However, I know right now that the Penn Mile will not be the race I will look to when it comes to Catch a Glimpse’s finest moments. And it’s not even her fault. Her 2 1/4-length victory looked nice on the surface. But the problem is, the Penn Mile was all but conceded to Catch a Glimpse in the first 50 yards or so. It was literally gifted to her on a silver platter.

Catch a Glimpse is blessed with natural speed, but she had rated just off the early lead in her last four starts dating back to her determined score in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. This figured to come in handy for Catch a Glimpse on Saturday because the speedy Giant Run had to go early, as did Silent Waters. Even Beach Patrol, who went wire to wire at Santa Anita two starts back, could have been pace involved if the situation warranted.

Instead, for whatever reason, none of them went. Not one of them. And that handed Catch a Glimpse the easiest, most uncontested lead she has ever seen, and might ever see again. Her quarter-mile, half-mile, and three-quarter mile fractions were slower than much lesser horses posted in the Penn Oaks three races earlier. When you give an accomplished horse like Catch a Glimpse an enormous advantage like that, there can be no other outcome.

Winning a $500,000 race was never so easy.