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Beholder destroys the boys in the Pacific Classic

Beholder destroys the boys in the Pacific Classic
Beholder and jockey Gary Stevens win the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Saturday. (Benoit Photo / Associated Press)

On Saturday, the seaside race track became Del Mare, not Del Mar, because Beholder wouldn't let any male catch her in the $1-million TVG Pacific Classic.

After four mares had tried and failed before Beholder, a mare won the Pacific Classic for the first time in 25 runnings, and emotions flowed in the winner's circle.

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"Nature didn't make very many like her, ever," a clearly moved Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said as he watched Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens score Mandella's fourth Pacific Classic win. "That was just amazing. ... We didn't think she would do it quite like that. We thought it was the girls she was picking on."

Said owner B. Wayne Hughes: "She's the first horse who has made me feel lucky to be her owner. Call it pride."

Mandella's son Gary, formerly his assistant, also was brimming with emotion. He saw his father engineer the greatest upset in Pacific Classic history when Dare And Go ended Cigar's 16-race win streak in 1996. His father also won the 1997 Pacific Classic with Gentlemen, and with his other horse, Siphon, taking second. He won it with Pleasantly Perfect in 2004.

And now he has seen his father's super mare destroy a field of males, winning by 8 1/4 lengths, just one-quarter of a length off the mark set by Game On Dude in 2013. Her time of 1:59.77 is just .66 of a second off Candy Ride's Pacific Classic record in 2003 of 1:59.11. Mandella's Catch A Flight was second, just as Siphon backed Gentlemen.

This time, the gentlemen were left behind. Red Vine was third.

"Man, probably two of the greatest Pacific Classics of all-time, amazing," Gary Mandella said. "How do you choose between the two? The biggest upset and this. She has earned the right to be in the argument of the really great mares we've been blessed with the last 10 years. She deserves to be in the conversation with something like that. She's very special."

"I've felt some good ones, but nothing like that," Stevens said as he watched the replay from the winner's circle, his third trip there for the Pacific Classic. "She just turned on the afterburners. Look at her. She went by Bayern like he was tied. When she hit her right lead, she just took off. I never went to my stick, only to flag her from getting too close to the rail.

"This is different than any race I've ever won, never mind the Pacific Classic. This is just something else."

Richard Mandella said Beholder "took my breath away" when she made the move to pass both Bayern and Midnight Storm. It was billed as a Battle of the Sexes, with Beholder facing nine male rivals, but she had front-runners Bayern and Midnight Storm put away after the far turn heading into the stretch.

Bob Baffert, Bayern's trainer, knew the mare would be tough, but even he was surprised.

"I was really disappointed with Bayern," Baffert said. "I thought he would run much better. I was afraid there would be a speed duel and there was [with Midnight Storm]."

Flavien Prat rode Mandella's Catch A Flight, second to Beholder.

"He ran good, a very good race for him," Prat said. "The filly . . . she's just too much."

Of course the conversation turned immediately to what Beholder's next race might be and whether Mandella would consider a run against Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

"I wanted to give her a chance to do something special, and she did that today," Mandella said. "Everything is possible, but I'm just going to enjoy the hell out of this one."

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