On Saturday, champion Beholder answered the question of if she could beat the boys, and she did it in an emphatic way as she became the first filly or mare to win the Grade 1 Pacific Classic. In winning the $1 million contest by 8 1/4 lengths, she answered a lot of other questions, too.
Why challenge your horse?
The easiest path to success isn't always the most fulfilling. There was no question going into the Pacific Classic that Beholder would be able to hold her own in the race. A two-time champion in top form, she was unlikely to disgrace herself, but there is still hesitancy in American racing to run the girls against the boys. No one was prepared for the pure dominance Beholder delivered, and it just goes to show you never know what a horse is truly capable of until you ask her to do it.
Why bring a champion back?
Beholder won the 2012 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, and as such was named the champion 2-year-old filly. She came back the following year to win four Grade 1 races, including the Breeders' Cup Distaff, and she was named champion 3-year-old filly. She had an abbreviated 4-year-old campaign due to injury and illness, but still managed to win the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes. For all of her accomplishments to date, winning in open company the way she did in the Pacific Classic may very well have been her career-defining performance.
Why does everyone keep making a big deal out of Beholder's race record?
When Beholder won the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes earlier this month, she became the first horse of either gender to win a Grade 1 race at age 2, 3, 4 and 5, as documented by Equibase, whose database goes back to 1976. She is also the only filly to win both the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Distaff. Most horses, even champions, are good when they are younger or good when they are older, but to carry that talent and form from the beginning until now is special. In the words of her trainer, Richard Mandella, "It's just that nature doesn't make many like her, ever."
Why watch racing beyond the Triple Crown?
Because of performances like this. American racing centers around the Triple Crown as a whole, and even more specifically the Kentucky Derby, but there is so much more to enjoy. Beholder now has Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" berths to both the Classic and the Distaff. If she goes in the Classic, it will add an extra layer of excitement to an already exciting event. You want to see the best take on the best, and the Classic gives everyone a chance to do so. That is why it is so great American Pharoah wasn't retired after the Belmont. It is natural to want to see what the older horses can do against the Triple Crown winner and vice versa.
Why is it so easy to cheer for the fillies and geldings?
Unlike colts, fillies and geldings tend to stick around longer, which means you have more time to enjoy their careers. While fillies and mares obviously have value in the breeding shed, they can only have one foal a year. Stallions, meanwhile, can have hundreds of foals each breeding season. Often times, it mathematically does not make sense to race a good 3-year-old colt the following year. Geldings have no breeding value, and so of course racing them as long as they are sound and happy makes more sense than an early retirement. As for Beholder, her value, which was already high, went up even more on Saturday, as did the value of her future foals.
Why do people say racing is a funny game?
Last year, when Beholder had to miss the Breeders' Cup due to her illness, she also had to miss another appointment on her calendar: the Fasig-Tipton November Sale. In all likelihood, had she been sold last year, she would have been retired. Instead, because shipping her across country was not in her best interest last fall, her connections decided to race her again as a 5-year-old if she was up for it. Clearly, she has been and racing has been better for it.