Beholder Shows Vulnerability Despite Winning Vanity Mile

Beholder is fast. Beholder is brilliant. Beholder is a winning machine. Beholder is in a class of her own.

For the last several years, those thoughts ran through the minds of many a horse racing fan, including my own. She has been one of the most dominant forces that California has ever seen, dominating the Grade I ranks from the early age of two years old.

For the longest time it looked as if Beholder’s talent, speed and brilliance would never plateau. She improved from her juvenile year to her sophomore year, then again as a four-year-old, reaching her pinnacle, last year, at the ripe age of five.

At this point it seemed a given that she would maintain the pace as a 6-year-old… unfortunately, from the looks of the Vanity Mile, I would say that she hasn’t. Unfortunately, it looks as though the mighty Beholder may have finally lost a step.

I realize the daughter of Henny Hughes took home first prize this past Saturday, making her the first horse since Kelso to win a Grade I in five consecutive years of racing. However, looking deeper into the race, past the hysteria of the historic win, the performance was not that impressive.

Last year, in her second start of the season, Beholder won the Adoration Stakes in a snappy 1:41.67 for the mile and one-sixteenth distance. It was a little more than a length to the runner-up, but over seven lengths to the third-place finisher. The final time was quick, the pace was solid, and Beholder still won with ease.

The Vanity Mile represented Beholder’s second race of 2016, meaning her fitness level should have been similar to when she won the Adoration Stakes in 2015. She also received a perfect stalking trip off of a dawdling pace, while her main competitor Stellar Wind, remained trapped on the rail for much of the race.

Turning for home, I expected the big mare to draw away with authority. She had gotten the jump on Stellar Wind, who was coming off a long layoff, and she shouldn’t have to needed to be asked to hold sway over an otherwise soft field.

Instead, that is exactly what happened.

Beholder holds of Stellar Wind in the Grade I Vanity Mile at Santa Anita Park.

Beholder holds of Stellar Wind in the Grade I Vanity Mile at Santa Anita Park.

Stellar Wind was able to grind away a length from Beholder’s lead from the stretch call to the finish. You have to go back to last year’s Adoration to find the last time that Beholder lost ground in the final furlong of a race. However, even in losing ground to the runner-up, she still extended her advantage over the mare that ran third. This year, she lost ground to the third-place mare in addition to Stellar Wind, who finished second.

If this isn’t enough evidence for you then I suggest you look at the very average time of 1:35.97. This mare ran 1:35.12 as her mile split in last year’s Pacific Classic while on cruise control. In this race, Gary Stevens was riding her the length of the stretch to get her to finish .03 seconds away from 1:36.00.

I understand that Stellar Wind is a top filly; therefore, in a completely fair world, she should finish close to Beholder. The problem is races are rarely “fair” and this one certainly wasn’t. Stellar Wind was obviously rusty in her first outing in over seven months. She also lost valuable time and position when she was trapped on the rail while Beholder made the first move.

With all of this against her, Stellar Wind shouldn’t have even been close to Beholder at the finish. Instead, she was only a length and a half away.

Beholder had the perfect set-up, while her rival had one of the worst, and she yet she still lost ground down the lane.

Only time will tell if the mare will find her form, but, as of now, it seems very clear that Beholder, at six years old, has finally lost a step.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily state or reflect those of US Racing.

Laura Pugh
Laura Pugh has been in love with horses since age five, when she took her first ride as a birthday gift. When she was nine years old she began to take riding lessons as a hunter/jumper. Her first introduction to racing was watching War Emblem’s Triple Crown attempt and, from there, she was hooked. Her knowledge of the sport was self-learned, as she took to reading every book on the topic that she could lay hands on.

In 2009 she began her own blog named Horsin’ Around, where she earned a reputation for her passionate and fiery articles. It was that recognition that soon landed her a position as author of Dead Heat Debates, one of Horse Racing Nation’s many blogs. Since then she has written for other publications such as TwinSpires.com and Lady and the Track, always demonstrating the same fiery passion that her followers have come to expect.