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Beholder Faces Distance Question in Pacific Classic

Beholder Faces Distance Question in Pacific Classic: Female dirt horses in America run 10 furlongs once in a blue moon because there are few races at the distance written for them. The logic is confusing for why this remains true. Subsequently, Beholder has zero 10 furlong races on her record going into the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Saturday, the marquee event of the meet for older horses. This leaves a mysterious cloud on how to approach using her.

Beholder Pacific Classic

Spendthrift Farm’s Beholder and jockey Gary Stevens (pictured above in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes) will attempt a win in the TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015.
Photo: Benoit

Deciding whether Beholder can last the distance projects to be difficult on some handicappers. Others already decided lasting the extra furlong is too much. In any case, owned by Spendthrift Farm and trained by Richard Mandella, Beholder has compiled an impressive resume for a female. Most of her wins came at shorter routes, but Beholder’s nine furlong races were brilliant too.

Even though Beholder lost the 2013 Kentucky Oaks (GI), she proved the distance was no problem while missing first by less than a length. Losing at a certain distance once does not mean a horse cannot run the distance. Princess of Sylmar outran Beholder fair and square. Princess of Sylmar went on to complete a brilliant season, one only blemished by meeting Beholder again in the nine furlong Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) and losing to her. Arguably, the course favored speed when Beholder won her Distaff. While the bias helped, she still ran brilliant winning by over four lengths.

Beholder faces one more problem with the pace scenario. While Bayern’s form looks clouded with three straight losses, he owns enough speed to give anyone running up front a hard time. Beholder prefers to either lead or press the leader. In addition to Bayern, Midnight Storm on the far outside seems likely to press the leader too. He may even try to cut off Beholder because the mare is just one spot to the left.

If the pace collapses, a few key horses could take the race. Only some of them offer value, such as the rail horse Class Leader. Transferred to John Sadler’s barn recently, Class Leader mostly competed around Churchill Downs and Fair Grounds before coming west. Interestingly, Hall of Famer Mike Smith picks up the mount. Expect a stalking trip from midpack or further back, and a good rally if the pace is there.

From the fourth post position, Hard Aces makes his return after taking the Gold Cup (GI) in June. While a nice runner, his talent ceiling is questionable and he received a very nice setup in his win. Common handicapping logic dictates going against the horse that had an easy pace scenario because most of the public only rates horses by where they finished in the race. Hard Aces finished first, not only with a fast pace, but a cozy trip through the inside with smart jockey Victor Espinoza on board.

Just one post to the right, Red Vine gives this race a try after finishing second in the Salvator Mile (GIII) at Monmouth Park. His first three dirt efforts were excellent, and even his recent loss is not terrible. The speed figures are solid for this son of Candy Ride, and he will get first run at the leaders.

For fans of backwheeling, Imperative might be a horse to consider. While not a runner that wins many races, Imperative likes to clunk onto the board, and usually at large odds. In fact, the last time Imperative went off at single-digit odds came one year ago, in the 2014 San Diego Handicap (GII). He finished eighth on Del Mar’s former quirky synthetic surface. The new dirt track will help this gelding.

Catch a Flight and Hoppertunity break next to Imperative. While they are consistent horses, the public overbets them in almost every race. The only time they let Catch a Flight go off at double-digit odds, Shared Belief ran and the odds of the other horses inflated because of Shared Belief’s presence.

Describing this field as soft is fair. The team for Beholder would be hard pressed to pick an easier open Grade I dirt race. She only needs to overcome the distance question. If a believer, there are enough horses projected to take money (ex. Catch a Flight, Hoppertunity) and leave the odds on Beholder swallowable. If she fails, it will be a shame to read the comments suggesting females should stick to female-only races. Beholder’s connections deserve applause for attempting something different.

Related Links:
TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar: Posts, Odds, Festivities

TVG Pacific Classic Post Positions & Odds
Race 9 6:10 PM PT
1 Class Leader 15-1 Smith/Sadler
2 Bailoutbobby 20-1 Graham/O’Neill
3 Bayern 6-1 Bejarano/Baffert
4 Hard Aces 5-1 Espinoza/Sadler
5 Red Vine 6-1 Rosario/Clement
6 Imperative 12-1 Nakatani/Baltas
7 Catch a Flight 9-2 Prat/Mandella
8 Hoppertunity 5-1 Garcia/Baffert
9 Beholder 5-2 Stevens/Mandella
10 Midnight Storm 7-1 Baze/D’Amato