ARCADIA, Calif. (Nov. 4, 2016) – Spendthrift Farm’s brilliant mare Beholder ($8.60) nipped the previously undefeated by Songbird by a nose to win the 33rd running of the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) for fillies and mares on Friday afternoon at Santa Anita Park.
Trained by Richard Mandella and ridden by Gary Stevens, Beholder covered the 1 1/8 miles on a fast main track in 1:49.20.
It was the second Distaff victory for Beholder, who had won the race at Santa Anita in 2013 and had taken the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies here in 2012.
It was the fourth Breeders’ Cup victory for Spendthrift, whose other victory came in the 2011 Mile at Churchill Downs with Court Vision.
For Mandella it was his ninth Breeders’ Cup victory and second in the Distaff and for Stevens his fourth Distaff victory among 11 Breeders’ Cup wins. Stevens’ other Distaff wins in addition to Beholder’s double were One Dreamer in 1994 at Churchill Downs and Escena in 1998, also at Churchill Downs.
Never worse than second in 16 starts at Santa Anita, this was Beholder’s 14th victory here and pushed her earnings in excess of $6 million.
Songbird, ridden by Mike Smith and perfect through her first 11 starts, led the field of eight through fractions of 23 1/5 and 47 seconds with I’m a Chatterbox and Beholder in closest pursuit.
On the far turn, I’m a Chatterbox and Beholder both went after Songbird but by the top of the stretch it was a two-horse battle royale between the 6-year-old mare and the 3-year-old filly, a duel that covered the entire stretch.
Forever Unbridled rallied to finish third, 1 ¼ lengths in back of Songbird and 2 ½ lengths in front of Stellar Wind.
LONGINES BREEDERS’ CUP DISTAFF QUOTES
Winning jockey Gary Stevens (Beholder) – “It’s probably the most emotional race of my career because she’s so special to me and it’s her last race. I just asked Mr. (B.Wayne) Hughes if he has an extra paddock for me next to her because I probably should be getting on the plane with her and walking out right now, but I’m not ready.
“She gave me absolutely everything. I have a new respect for Songbird even in defeat. Beholder, even in the past, has never given me everything like she gave me today.”
Winning trainer Richard Mandela (Beholder) – “I made the statement that they better have their running shoes on to beat her. Then I kind of kicked myself for saying it. But it turned out I was right. She’s just a great horse. She understands my training better and better.”
Second-place jockey Mike Smith (Songbird, favorite) – “She ran incredible and I’m so proud of her. The real Beholder showed up today. That was probably the best race she has run in her life. My filly made her reach down as deep as she has. In losing, I feel like we won. We got beat a short nose. It’s easy when you are winning and you have to take it when you lose. Beholder is retiring but my filly will get bigger and stronger next year as they all do when they get older. She’s a true champion.”
Second-place trainer Jerry Hollendorfer (Songbird, favorite) – “It was a great race. The fractions were a little slower than I thought they’d be early, but she still ran her race. She dug in through the stretch when the other mare came alongside of us. From where I was sitting, it looked like we got beat right on the wire.”
Third-place jockey Joel Rosario (Forever Unbridled) – “I had a good trip. She relaxed nicely. The two that finished in front of me were too tough, but she really finished nicely; but third best today.”
Third-place trainer Dallas Stewart (Forever Unbridled) – “What a great race. Very proud of her. She only got beat a length by Songbird and Beholder.”
Fourth-place jockey Victor Espinoza (Stellar Wind) – “She hopped at the start and the race was over for us. She ran well.”
Fourth-place assistant trainer of John Sadler, Larry Benavidez (Stellar Wind) – “It looked like she hopped at the start. She gave them a few lengths at the start. She ran well, considering everything, but it’s disappointing.”
Fifth-place jockey Florent Geroux (I’m a Chatterbox) – “I had great spot stalking Songbird. On the final turn, when (jockey) Gary (Stevens on Beholder) came to me on the turn, it looked like he had a ton of horse. My filly tried hard. Hats off to the winner.”
Fifth-place trainer Larry Jones (I’m a Chatterbox) – “It was a good race. We took our shot and put ourselves in the place we wanted to be in. When you’re running against the best, that’s why I said that some Grade 1 winner was going to finish sixth – and I think we finished fifth.”
Sixth-place trainer Todd Pletcher (Curalina) – “I thought she got a good trip, she just seemed to come up empty at the half-mile pole and kind of finished evenly from there.”
Breeders’ Cup and Santa Anita Park