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Beholder Fits in Pacific Classic at Del Mar

Beholder Fits in Pacific Classic at Del Mar: Stunning can only describe how Beholder looks when winning races with her “A” game. Last weekend, the star mare took down the Clement L. Hirsch (GI) at Del Mar by seven lengths, while poor Yahilwa settled for second. Another four lengths behind the runner-up, Warren’s Veneda was left in shock at Beholder’s run. Now comes the question of whether Beholder attempts the Pacific Classic (GI) on Aug. 22, open to both genders at 10 furlongs on dirt. While unproven in either category, she merits a shot.

Beholder Del Mar

Spendthrift Farm’s Beholder and jockey Gary Stevens win the Grade I, $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes, Saturday, August 1, 2015 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Del Mar CA.
Photo: Benoit

Opinions vary on this subject, but the consensus leans towards females being able to run versus males on turf, while on dirt the genders are more separated in ability. It is unclear if this viewpoint holds any statistical foundation, or if Americans simply believe this because everyone has become accustomed to seeing mixed gender races in turf racing, and not on dirt, on a consistent basis.

Why would females need turf to compete successfully in open company? The pace is often faster in dirt racing, and maybe females need a softer pace? No one has explained the reason too well. Females must be “special” on dirt to compete with males, yet an average three-year-old stakes filly named Jolypha finished third in the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

In fact, the average finish for females in the dirt Breeders’ Cup Classic is solid if anyone thinks about how Azeri, Zenyatta and Havre de Grace fared in their respective years. None of them won the dirt version, but they all finished fifth or higher. The trend falls in line with how Jolypha ran. If a horse can beat half the field of a normal-sized race, it is logical to conclude they rightfully belonged as a contender.

Online commenters often bring up the point about females maturing faster than males early on, which is why females are seen taking on males as two-year-old horses, but not when they get older. After the two-year-old season, males become stronger. But, do they become faster by a significant margin? In running, powerful and faster are not necessarily co-dependent terms.

Back to Beholder, there is little to gain by beating up on the same fillies and mares anyways. She won two female Eclipse Awards already. A Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) win sits nicely on her resume. Pending retirement gives another reason to take a shot. She will never receive another chance after the year ends.

While Beholder’s pedigree is not well-suited for 10 furlongs, the fact may not matter. Yes, sire Henny Hughes was a precocious sprinter that stretched his speed out in the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) and lost by neck. Half-sibling Into Mischief won the 2007 CashCall Futurity (GI) at a route distance, but only ran three more times in sprint races. Still, other horses overcome their pedigree or run contrary to it.

Several handicappers believed American Pharoah was ill-suited for 10 furlongs, and then 12 furlongs. His example is the easiest of a horse overcoming pedigree. Secret Circle has a plodding-sire and a dam side filled with route influences, yet he made his career sprinting. Beholder tends to accelerate with devastation and win by large margins in her best starts, suggesting there is a distance limitation because it just does not seem possible to stay so brilliant going longer, but why not give her the chance?

Some readers will bring up the “never waste a race” argument. Horses should only be put in winnable-spots because any other move would constitute a “wasted” race. No one is able to prove without a doubt the Pacific Classic is not obtainable for her. If Beholder runs and loses, she gave her best shot trying something different in terms of gender and distance. If she wins, then she accomplished something that no female ever did. Her name would appear on a list next to great horses such as Best Pal, Gentlemen, Free House, Lava Man, Game On Dude and Shared Belief forever.

If female racehorses tried open company more often, people may see the race as horses facing horses, rather than a lone female taking on males. Right now, most of the situations where a female runs in open company are hyped up as a gender battle. Beholder belongs in the Pacific Classic and considering the weakened division of older horses and her affinity for Del Mar, she might win.

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