has much to look forward to in the immediate future. First and foremost, the opening of Santa Anita next Thursday, and down the road a piece, the return of Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Beholder
, likely to be named champion 3-year-old filly of 2013 when the Eclipse Award winners are announced on Jan. 18, 2014, at Gulfstream Park.
“December 26 is the start of the New Year for me, when Santa Anita opens,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “It’s always exciting because it’s a great place.”
As to Santa Anita and Del Mar picking up Hollywood Park’s surrendered dates for extended and additional racing at their respective venues in 2014, Mandella preferred to see the glass as half full.
“I’m trying to be an optimist,” he said. “I think things will only get better. I’m very excited about Del Mar having another meet (in November) beyond its regular summer dates. I only wish it was longer, because that is where we’ve really captured the public’s fancy, and where the fans come out to see live racing.
“They get big crowds there and it’s the most successful track I can think of, in that respect. I don’t kid myself and say it will be the same as it is in the summer, but it will be as good as anything else we’re doing, and maybe better.”
Regarding Santa Anita, Mandella stands in full support of Los Angeles Turf Club Chairman Keith Brackpool in his ongoing efforts to improve Santa Anita’s aesthetic on-track experience.
“Yes, other areas of Santa Anita need attention,” Mandella allowed. “But it’s the bettors who produce the handle that generates funds for other improvements, so full focus on attracting them to see and appreciate the new accommodations should be a top priority.
“Brackpool is innovative and progressive in his thinking, and that’s what we need. He has Santa Anita moving in the right direction.”
Beholder, meanwhile, has been enjoying a vacation at Peacefield Farm in Temecula. “We’ll pick her up a couple days after Christmas,” Mandella said of the 3-year-old daughter of Henny Hughes owned by the Spendthrift Farm of B. Wayne Hughes.
“We’ll bring her back (to race), but it’s going to be March, April, something like that. It’s more than you could ask for, what she did,” Mandella added, referring to her dominating, front-running triumphs in the Grade I Zenyatta Stakes and the Distaff, in which she vanquished champion Royal Delta and Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar. “I couldn’t be more proud.”
This is not Mandella’s first rodeo with a champion filly, having developed Phone Chatter (1993) and Halfbridled (2003) into Eclipse Award winners in their 2-year-old campaigns.
“She’s got as much talent as the other two,” Mandella said of Beholder. “It’s hard to tell who was the best. The other mares had problems at three, so it’s difficult to compare, because Beholder was very sound at three and developed into a great 3-year-old. The others didn’t, but they had problems. As 2-year-olds, I wouldn’t know which one was better.”
Beholder will join up with Mandella assistant Julie Adair when she first returns from Peacefield. “Julie has a little place in Chino where she kind of gets our horses ridden before they come in,” Mandella said. “Beholder went there after the (Kentucky) Oaks. Julie will pick her up and ride her at her place a couple weeks and then she’ll come to Santa Anita.”