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Beholder became the first filly to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and Breeders' Cup Distaff in back-to-back years (Photos courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire).

By Tom Pedulla, America's Best Racing

ARCADIA, Calif. – Beholder, a 2-year-old champion who thrives at Santa Anita Park, staged a brilliant performance for ageless jockey Gary Stevens to overpower Close Hatches by 4 ¼ lengths on Friday in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Beholder is the first filly to win the Juvenile Fillies as a 2-year-old and provide a Distaff triumph as an encore. And she may well have snatched the Eclipse Award from last-place Princess of Sylmar as the leading 3-year-old filly.

Trainer Richard Mandella, who saddled Beholder for her sixth win in seven starts here, believes the Eclipse debate should not be much of an argument at all. “What’s the name of this game, the Breeders’ Cup Championships? Did I misread it?” he quipped.

Authenticity, a surprising early leader, held on for third on what was a speed-favoring dirt track throughout the sun-splashed afternoon.

Royal Delta, bidding to join turf miler Goldikova as the only three-time winners in the 30-year history of the Breeders’ Cup, faltered during the backstretch run to be fourth.

It was almost surely the final race of 5-year-old Royal Delta’s illustrious career, one that yielded more than $4.7 million in earnings. “It’s not a bad career,” said trainer Bill Mott. “Maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s time.”

Beholder had won on the front end in each of her previous two starts and generally relied on dazzling early speed to run her foes into the ground. This time, she rated kindly in third for Stevens, 50, who was retired for more than seven years. He gained his first Breeders’ Cup win since War Chant took the Mile in 2000.

BEHOLDER'S CONNECTIONS WITH THEIR BREEDERS' CUP TROPHIES

Beholder Inside

“She’s so naturally fast, you don’t have to train that into her, and she’s made the lead so easily in many of her races,” said Mandella, a Hall of Fame conditioner. “Today, she had to come from off it and she did – and, boy, do I love it.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have many good mares in my years of training. But this mare might have to be the best of all.”

Princess of Sylmar appeared to be a potential Horse of the Year candidate when she arrived here with four consecutive Grade 1 triumphs: the Kentucky Oaks, the Coaching Club of America Oaks, the Alabama and the Beldame.

Jockey Javier Castellano blamed the surface after Princess of Sylmar failed to fire with so much at stake. “Unfortunately, she didn’t handle the track at all,” Castellano said. “She was spinning her wheels. Usually, at the half-mile pole, she pulls. Today, she didn’t pull at all.”

In the Breeders’ Cup undercard:

$500,000 Marathon: London Bridge, a New York-bred campaigned primarily on turf overseas, rallied and then outkicked Blueskiesnrainbows to the wire by one length. Jockey Mike Smith noted that his winning mount struggled with the move to dirt and was unsure of his footing through most of the 1 ¾-mile endurance test. “If it was on grass,” Smith said, “it would have been a much better victory.”

$1 million Juvenile Turf: Smith made it 2-for-2 when Outstrip came on for a one-half length decision against Giovanni Boldini. Front-running Bobby’s Kitten, asked to set a hot pace, weakened to finish third. “The trip was really good,” Smith said. “I managed to get covered up, just make my way and follow the right horses.”

BREEDERS' CUP DAY 1 IN PHOTOS

$1 million Dirt Mile: Goldencents, a disappointment when he lagged in 17th in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness, snapped a five-race losing streak by rolling on the front end for jockey Rafael Bejarano and emerging as a 2 ¾-length victor. Goldencents is owned, in part, by University of Louisville coaching legend Rick Pitino. “I knew he was going to show me a big kick because he’s been training for that and he’s been doing awesome,” Bejarano said. 

$1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf: Irish-bred Chriselliam pulled an upset for jockey Richard Hughes and trainer Charles Hills. “Absolutely brilliant,” said Hills. “I couldn’t be more pleased. She was pretty sensational.”

For charts of all of today's races, click here.

For a recap of all of today's Breeders' Cup undercard races, click here.

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