By Gene Kershner
ARCADIA, Ca. -- It's been 13 years since Gary Stevens stood in a Breeders' Cup (BC) winner's circle. Friday afternoon he returned after a perfect ride on California-based 3-year-old Beholder in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff before 35,832 at Santa Anita Park. It was his ninth career Breeders' Cup winning ride. Beholder paid $7.60 for the win, $4.20 to place and $3.20 to show.
Stevens' last BC win came in 2000 aboard War Chant in the Mile. He last won the Distaff in 1994 on One Dreamer. He stalked the early leaders Authenticity (third, $4.20 to show) and two-time winner Royal Delta along the back stretch and made his move on the far turn. Royal Delta faded to fourth and had nothing in the tank when asked by jockey Mike Smith who had two BC wins on the Friday card to extend his BC record to 21 wins.
Close Hatches ($6.60 to place, $4.80 to show) closed late for trainer Bill Mott to finish second 4 1/4-lengths behind the winner. Mott was seeking a record fourth straight Distaff win from either his second-place finisher or Royal Delta. Instead, it was trainer Richard Mandella, who won last year's Juvenile Fillies race with Beholder. It was his eighth BC training victory, all coming at Santa Anita.
Mandella was thrilled with the effort from the daughter of Henny Hughes for owner Spendthrift Farm. "She's so naturally fast, you don't have to train that into her and she's made the lead so easily in many of her races. Today, she had to come from off of it and she did it - and boy do I love it. I've been lucky enough to have many good mares in my years of training, but this mare might have to be the best of all," said Mandella.
It's been quite a comeback year for the 50-year-old jockey who won the Preakness aboard Oxbow in May after coming out of retirement in January and riding for the first time since 2005. The Hall of Famer will try to complete the Distaff-Classic double tomorrow afternoon in the $5 million Classic on Mucho Macho Man.
Beholder was a little fractious going into the gate, but broke perfectly for Stevens. "I was afraid she might over-break, but she settled and broke beautiful. This is the best race she's ever run. I was hoping Authenticity would carry the lead a little farther but (Beholder) moved up nice, went by her easy and then really opened up," said Stevens.
The win by Beholder puts her name in the 3-year-old filly division discussion along with Princess of Sylmar, who finished last this afternoon and whose Horse of the Year hopes were dashed with the defeat. She finished the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:47.77. The track was speed-favoring all afternoon and Beholder used the bias and hometown edge to her advantage over her five challengers.
Other Breeders' Cup Races
There were four other Breeders' Cup races on the card won by London Bridge (Marathon, $20), Outstrip (Juvenile Turf, $14), Goldencents (Dirt Mile, $9.60) and Chriselliam (Juvenile Fillies Turf, $15.80).
Check back here tomorrow around 3 p.m. ET for a live blog of Saturday's nine Breeders' Cup races.