Published: Mon, November 07, 2016
Sport | By Billy Aguilar

Beholder noses out Songbird in Breeders' Cup Distaff

Beholder noses out Songbird in Breeders' Cup Distaff

Tamarkuz surged past Gun Runner in mid stretch to win by three-and-a-half lengths with Accelerate a neck behind in third and odds-on favorite Dortmund fourth.

Songbird is the early 6-5 favorite, with Beholder and Stellar Wind as the co-second choices at 5-2 among the eight fillies and mares chasing the prize in the 1 1/8-mile race.

There's been an upset in the opening race of the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita. She's coming off two straight losses to Stellar Wind, in the Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar and the Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita. Two hall of fame jockeys.

The pressure of Zenyatta's run of victories kept him awake at night. Nor were their jockeys: the 53-year-old Stevens and 51-year-old Smith.

"For some reason I'm more comfortable than I was the last time Zenyatta ran". "But she's 90% of the time the sweetest thing that you could find".

"I think Carina Mia made her dig in one time in the Coaching Club American Oaks, but she thrived off it", Smith said.

Songbird and Land Over Sea are two 3-year-olds challenging older horses in the Distaff.

"She relaxed nicely. The two that finished in front of me were too tough, but she really finished nicely; but third best today". "The way she thinks, she gets it". She's 11 for 11 running a very smart campaign by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. You hope physically she is. "Today, she didn't look after anything".

"Songbird might get an easy lead".

For Songbird, it was the bitter taste of defeat- a taste she was not at all familiar with. "I just asked if there was 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".

"You know what amazed me?" said Janeen Painter, the former jockey better known as Beholder's exercise rider. She reads pace as well as any horse I've ever ridden.

It was the second Distaff victory for Beholder, who won the race at Santa Anita in 2013.

For Beholder, Friday's win represented overdue good fortune at the Breeders' Cup as she was unable to defend her Distaff title in 2014 due to a fever and was scratched from last year's Classic as a chief rival to American Pharoah because of illness.

"On paper, this is the best Distaff I've ridden in, but I can go back to 1988 with a great filly and a great mare in Winning Colors and Personal Ensign, I've been in some good Distaffs before".

But when she got her chance against a field that included three-year-old star Songbird, unbeaten in 11 prior races, and last year's three-year-old Eclipse Award-winner Stellar Wind Beholder didn't disappoint.

"I've been in battles before but never for the length of the stretch - five-sixteenths or a quarter of a mile of street fight (with Songbird)". I've had some good feelings in racing but this is tops, right here.

Around the far bend, Beholder began to make her move while widest of all and by the time the frontrunner hit the top of the stretch, Beholder had moved abreast of Songbird, setting the stage for the "confrontation of champions" as announcer Larry Culmous enthusiastically called for the stretch run.

"She ran incredible", Smith said. People ask me on a daily basis, 'why are you still riding you old fart?' And I can't replace that, what I just experienced.

ARCADIA - Seldom has a 6-5 morning-line favorite sparked so much debate heading into a Breeders' Cup. Beholder's record will live on long after she is retired to Spendthrift Farm as the victor of three Breeders' Cup events and four Eclipse Award titles. Runhappy, who won last year's Sprint, beat only one horse as he was stretching out in distance in his second start this year.

But first, $5 million worth of purse money will be handed out in the juvenile turf races for both fillies and colts, the Las Vegas dirt mile, and the Longines distaff race. Trainer Aidan O'Brien saddles Roly Poly and 6-1 shot Hydrangea, while his 23-year-old son Joseph sends out 6-1 shot Intricately, who will be ridden by his brother Donnacha. His father is the leading worldwide trainer in Cup history, with 10 wins.

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