Photo: Don August
Please enjoy the third installment of my “2013 Breeders’ Cup
Highlights” series, which features the greatest personal moments of my Breeders’ Cup experience.
Highlight Three: The Distaff
The Monday before the thirtieth Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I), I spoke to Fred
Mitchell, whose family’s Clarkland Farm
bred, raised, and sold Beholder –
one of the contenders in the star-studded Distaff. As I listened to him speak
proudly of the three-year-old filly, telling stories about the 2012 Breeders’
Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) champion, I could not think of a more deserving
When asked what a victory by Beholder in the Distaff would mean to Mitchell and
his family, he responded with a laugh, “$60,000.”
But on a more serious note, he stated, “It would mean a lot, because Leslie’s
Lady’s (the dam of Beholder) offspring. . . will be worth a lot of money at the
sales. That just makes it that much more enjoyable.”
For Mitchell, Beholder’s success is “something that you dream of – that you
think will never happen to you. It’s just a feeling that’s hard to explain to
anybody. It’s what we work for.”
But Beholder had a tough task to overcome in the Distaff. Although the race
only drew a small field of six fillies and mares, it was among the most competitive
of the 2013 championships. Beholder was among the three headliners in the
Distaff, but certainly the most overlooked of the trio. Most attention was on
the two-time defending champion, Royal Delta, and the four-time grade one-winning three-year-old Princess of Sylmar.
Aboard Beholder was Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who was riding in the Breeders’ Cup for the first time since 2005
and searching for his first Breeders’ Cup victory since 2000. The now
50-year-old rider had come out of retirement in January and after a successful racing
season that included a win in the Preakness
Stakes (gr. I), a Breeders’ Cup victory would serve as the perfect exclamation
point for one of the greatest comebacks of all-time.
Tracking the leaders on the outside after breaking cleanly from the gate,
Beholder appeared relaxed with Stevens aboard as the Distaff field charged into
the backstretch after a 22.78-second first quarter. Racing just behind Royal
Delta and to the champion’s outside, Beholder was just over a length behind the
leader – Authenticity – down the backstretch.
As the fillies and mares approached the far turn, Royal Delta began to weaken,
allowing Beholder to seize a position in second as she set her sights on the
lead. Growing even with Authenticity around the bend, Beholder took the lead midway
through the curve, holding a clear advantage over her rivals as she galloped
into the homestretch with an increasing lead. Her brilliance proved too much
for her talented adversaries as she drew away to a breathtaking 4 ¼-length
victory – the largest winning margin in the Distaff since Round Pond captured
the race in 2006 at Churchill Downs.
As a crowd of more than 35,000 at Santa Anita cheered for Beholder and Gary
Stevens as the triumphant pair returned to the front side after the Distaff,
everyone at Clarkland Farm was rejoicing more than 2,000 miles away. Once
again, Beholder had allowed Clarkland to defy the odds, producing greatness
from a small, family-run operation.
“We watched the race together: screaming, crying, laughing and hugging each
other,” Katie Mooney of Clarkland Farm stated. “This has been a once in a