The first race of the day was run on the main track.
The main track at Del Mar. Photo by Chris Stone

An unexpected burst of speed that impressed her Hall of Fame jockey and trainer made Beholder the first female thoroughbred to win the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic Saturday.

The 5-year-old mare breezed to the front on the far turn without being asked by jockey Gary Stevens, led by 4 1/2 lengths entering the stretch and won Del Mar’s richest and most prestigious race by 8 1/4 lengths, the second- largest margin in the race’s 25-year history.

“She did that (winning move) all on her own,” Stevens said after Beholder’s 14th victory in 19 career starts and ninth in her past 10 races. “I’ve never experienced anything like that before. I don’t know what to compare it to.”

Said trainer Richard Mandella: “When she made that move, it just took my breath away. I’m flabbergasted. I expected her to run well or I wouldn’t have put her in this race. But I didn’t think she’d beat those colts up like that.”

The 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic was one-eighth of a mile farther than Beholder had run before. Her time was a fast one minute, 59.77 seconds.

“I’ve never walked into the starting gate in a $1 million race so confident,” Stevens said. “No nerves at all. Usually there is a matter of nerves involved into these races. “She caused me to have a normal heart rate going in there and that’s how she ran.”

The 2-1 favorite paid $6, $4.60 and $2.80. Catch a Flight, who like Beholder is trained by Mandella, returned $6.80 and $4.20. Red Vine paid $3.40 to show.

Beholder carried 119 pounds, five pounds less than each of the other nine entrants.

The Pacific Classic was the first time Beholder ran against males. Mandella decided to enter her in the Pacific Classic following her seven-length victory in Del Mar’s Grade I $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes on Aug. 1.

“I think when you come to a point when you’re winning in your own class so much, you probably ought to try something different,” Mandella said. “I don’t do it often, but I don’t often get one as good as Beholder.”

Beholder won Eclipse Awards as the top 2-year-old filly of 2012 and top 3-year-old filly of 2013.

The first prize money of $600,000 increased Beholder’s career earnings to $4,256,600.

Bayern, the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, led through the three- quarter-mile mark, with Midnight Storm second.

“We went by Bayern like he was tired,” Stevens said.

Bayern finished ninth in the 10-horse field, his fourth winless start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Midnight Storm was 10th.

“I was really disappointed with Bayern,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “I thought he would run much better.”

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.