Beholder romps to win against boys in Pacific Classic
DEL MAR, Calif. (AP) Beholder shot to the lead on the final turn and Gary Stevens peeked under his arm. No rival was even close.
''I knew she hadn't hit the afterburners yet and I said, `This is going to be fun,''' the Hall of Fame jockey said.
It sure was.
Beholder romped to an 8 1/4-length victory in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar, becoming the first female to win the Grade 1 race in its 25-year history Saturday.
''I chirped to her, and boom! She's gone,'' Stevens said. ''I've never experienced it before so I don't know what to compare it to.''
The winning margin was the second-largest behind Game On Dude's 8 1/2-length win two years ago.
Beholder disposed of dueling pacesetters Bayern and Midnight Storm in a matter of strides and then set to work building a commanding lead entering the stretch.
''It's like putting a bow on the package,'' Stevens said of blowing by the competition. ''I had a pretty good smile on my face for a full mile.''
With no need for his whip, Stevens used his hands to urge the 5-year-old bay mare home in front of a cheering crowd of 20,424 at the seaside track north of San Diego. He patted her with his right hand after they crossed the finish line.
Beholder ran 1 1/4 miles in 1:59.77 and paid $6, $4.60 and $2.80 as the 2-1 favorite.
''I've never walked into the starting gate in a million-dollar race as confident as I did,'' Stevens said. ''Usually there's a matter of nerves involved in these races but she caused me to have a normal heart rate going in there.''
Trainer Richard Mandella, another Hall of Famer, saddled the winner and runner-up, Catch a Flight, who returned $6.80 and $4.20.
''For one time, I'm speechless,'' Mandella said. ''I didn't expect she'd beat these colts up like this.''
Red Vine paid $3.40 to show in the race run on Del Mar's newly installed dirt track after eight years on the synthetic Polytrack surface.
Beholder earned an automatic berth in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 31 at Keeneland, where she could end up opposing Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. He is scheduled to end his career in the Classic.
Owner B. Wayne Hughes doesn't want to wait that long.
''I'd like to see American Pharoah show up at Santa Anita and have a match race,'' he said in the winner's circle.
Mandella was noncommittal about the Breeders' Cup.
''All year she had the fillies and mares under control. If I'm going to ship her, it's going to be for the Breeders' Cup,'' he said.
Four other females had tried to beat the boys in the race, with none finishing higher than fifth by Paseana in 1992.
The victory, worth $600,000, increased Beholder's career earnings to $4,256,600, with 14 wins in 19 starts, including nine in her last 10 under Stevens.
Stevens won his third career Pacific Classic, while Mandella earned his fourth. He also had the 1-2 finishers in 1997 with Gentlemen and Siphon.
Trainer Bob Baffert finished fourth with Hoppertunity and ninth with Bayern, who is 0 for 4 since winning last year's Breeders' Cup Classic.
''I was in a good spot, right there with Beholder,'' said Martin Garcia, who rode Hopportunity. ''Then she took off. She's a freak, man. A freak.''
In other stakes:
-Appealing Tale led all the way to win the $250,000 Pat O'Brien Stakes by a half-length over Wild Dude. Ridden by Joe Talamo, Appealing Tale ran seven furlongs in 1:21.40 and paid $4.40 and $2.60 as the 6-5 favorite. The 5-year-old gelding earned an automatic berth in the BC Dirt Mile on Oct. 31. Wild Dude returned $2.60. Indexical was another 3 1/2 lengths back in third. There was no show wagering because of the four-horse field. Kobe's Back was last.
-Big John B rallied from last to win the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap by 1 1/2 lengths for the second straight year, earning an automatic entry to the BC Turf. Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Big John B ran 1 3/8 miles on turf in 2:04.89 and paid $6.20, $3.20 and $2.40. Ashleyluvssugar returned $3.20 and $2.60, while Ganesh was another length back in third and paid $3.20 to show.