When the mighty Beholder finally calls it a day as a racehorse, she will soon join her Hall of Fame trainer, Richard Mandella in racing’s most exclusive club. With the ultimate objective for the 6-year-old Henny Hughes mare the $ 5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November, Mandella, who already has eight Breeders’ Cup wins to his credit, reflected on what has been and what could be for his stable superstar as she seeks her eighth consecutive win in Saturday’s Grade I, $ 400,000 Vanity Mile at Santa Anita.
Q. Beholder has been in your care for more than four years now. She was 21-1 first time out and was a well beaten fourth in a maiden special weight going 5 ½ furlongs at Hollywood Park on June 28, 2012. Thinking back, what were your initial impressions of her?
A. “We thought she was special right from the start. I thought I had her a little more ready than she was the first time out. But it turned out she needed one. I hadn’t pressed on her real hard, but we always had big hopes for her.”
Q. She doesn’t seem to have lost even a half a step over the years. Is she as good now or better than she’s ever been?
A. “You’d like to think she is as good. You’d like to think she’s better, but I don’t know what that would take (to demonstrate).”
Q. Dating back to the 1970s, our game has been driven in large part by the commercial breeding market. That said, Mr. Hughes made the call to run Beholder at age six and following her win in the Adoration he said that if all goes well for the remainder of the year, she’ll be back in training next year, at age seven. Do you think this could encourage others to keep their horses in training longer and let the breeding shed wait?
A. “The market is very important. It’s a lot more important to people like me and you than it is to Wayne Hughes. I think he added up everything it would take to have another one as good as her, but Mr. Hughes, at this point in his life (82) looked at all the percentages and said ‘Why not just keep her running?’ The chances of her producing something as good as she is are pretty tough. Think of all the yearlings, stallion fees and expenses. People tend to follow what works, so if it does, they might be inclined to keep them running. If it doesn’t, they’ll probably tell us how stupid we were for doing it.”
Q. When you look at her career numbers coming into the Vanity, they’re staggering. A three-time Eclipse Award winner. Sixteen wins from 21 starts. Thirteen overall stakes wins, 11 of them graded and nine of them Grade I’s. She’s won seven in a row. She’s an amazing 12 for 13 at Santa Anita and she’s got earnings of more than $ 4.4 million. When you reflect on all of that, what do you think?
A. “That’s what I mean when I say how hard it would be to replace her.”
Q. Gary Stevens has won 10 out 11 races with her. The Vanity comes up a lot tougher than her last race, the (Grade III) Adoration did here on May 8. Do you discuss strategy with Gary?
A. “I saw Gary this morning, but we just said ‘Hi’ and didn’t talk about anything. We pretty much let him figure it out, how to do it. In her last race there was only one way to go. This is a real race and there’s some good horses in there. Callaghan’s mare (Taris) comes off that big win sprinting and sometimes when horses win like that, they get pretty brave and keep winning. It should be a horse race. Sadler’s filly (Stellar Wind, Eclipse Champion 3-year-old filly last year), who knows how much she’s developed this year? We know she was a pretty good filly last year, we know that. We’ll pretty much let Gary figure out what to do.”
Q. Beholder spiked a fever October when she shipped to Keeneland for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which forced her to miss the race. It’s gotta be a great feeling knowing that with the Breeders’ Cup being here at Santa Anita in November, you don’t have to put her on an airplane?
A. “Absolutely, yeah. We’ve not had success shipping, although I’ve got three strikes out of the way with her, so I’m ready to go on now. Seriously, it really helps, it makes us feel better, knowing we’re going to be running right here.”
Q. With horses like Beholder, Stellar Wind, Nyquist, Exaggerator, Songbird, California Chrome and American Pharoah, Santa Anita-based horses seem to be dominating on many levels, nationally and internationally. That said, there are those who contend we have far too many horses that are trained by far too few people and that the game would be stronger if that issue was addressed. Do you agree?
A. “I agree with that. Mr. Kilroe (Frank E., Santa Anita’s longtime Director of Racing spanning three decades, from the early 1950s to the mid-80s) would be rolling over in his grave. My overall business is fine. I haven’t had any concerns, but I honestly don’t have all the answers. If I had the answer, I’d love to put it out there and try to fix things.”
The iconic Vanity, a fixture for fillies and mares since its inception at Hollywood Park in 1940, has been shortened from a mile and one eighth and will be run for the 75th time on Saturday. The Vanity has been carded as the seventh race on an 11-race program. With first post time at 2 p.m., approximate post time for the Vanity Mile is at 5 p.m. PDT.
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