Beholder Wins 2016 Debut Race
Beholder easily won her 2016 debut in the Grade 3 Adoration at Santa Anita Park on Sunday, with jockey Gary Stevens nearly motionless aboard the three-time Eclipse Award-winning champion.
“Every year, she’s gotten a little bigger and a little stronger. Imagine what she’ll look like next year,” trainer Richard Mandella said of the 6-year-old daughter of Henny Hughes.
Beholder’s owner, B. Wayne Hughes, said he made the decision to keep his superstar in training this year as long as Mandella approved.
And Hughes noted that she could be back again next year, too.
“If she has a good year this year, I’ll do it again next year at age 7. Why not? She’s having a good time. She’s really happy,” he said, noting that Mandella trained The Tin Man, who was still running at age 8.
Of her first race since winning the Grade 1 Zenyatta at Santa Anita last September, Mandella said he knew she was supposed to win.
“But things happen. As a horse trainer, you know things can happen … I did not rest easy just thinking that was a walkover,” Mandella said.
Stevens – who has been Beholder’s regular rider for several years — said he “had to let her do something the last sixteenth because she wanted to, and she had fun, I had fun.”
Stevens said Beholder “didn’t take so much as a deep breath when we pulled up on the backside,” calling her “a very happy mare.”
Beholder faced a field of five other horses and finished 2 ½ lengths ahead of her closest rival, Sheer Pleasure, in the 1 1/16-mile race.
She rewarded her backers with $2.10 each for $2 win, place and show bets. The victory marked the second year in a row that she won the Adoration, and her seventh consecutive appearance in the winner’s circle.
Beholder is expected to return to the races June 4 in the Grade 1 Vanity at Santa Anita.
This summer, she could defend her title in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar – a race in which she dominated her male rivals last summer.
“It’s very possible,” Mandella said. “But we did that last year because she was at the top of her game as we could see it and we’d have to see the same thing to do that.”
Beholder – who has 16 career wins in 21 starts — won Eclipse Awards at age 2, 3 and 5. She has won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
This year, Mandella and Hughes are hoping to aim Beholder toward the Breeders’ Cup Classic – a race her connections had hoped she would run in against Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah last year.
“Not only am I still thinking about going up against the boys, but I want Nyquist to be the Triple Crown winner,” her owner said. “Because (she) got sick last year, it’s very important to us to be able to take a shot at a Triple Crown winner. I think it would be amazing.”
Mandella noted that top mares are often retired by age 6 because they “become so valuable that you have to breed them.”
“But Mr. Hughes doesn’t have to do anything,” Mandella said. “He can do what he wants, God bless him.”