There are freak racehorses and there are freak pedigrees. They don’t come around very often, and on those rare occasions when they do, they normally defy explanation. Now, when you have a freak of a racehorse who just happens to have a freaky pedigree, then you have found something extra special. And that appears to be the case with Beholder.
If you listened to Gary Stevens describe in detail on TVG what it’s like riding Beholder following her other-worldly victory in the Pacific Classic, you can understand why she is unlike other horses…at least unlike anything Hall of Famer Stevens has ever ridden.
But is she a freak or did she run one extremely freakish race? Starting with her victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Beholder’s average Beyer Speed Figure, excluding the Pacific Classic, is 95.6, and in those 15 starts, she has run only three triple digit Beyers (101, 105, and 106). Yet in the Pacific Classic, she ran a 114. Did a daughter of Henny Hughes actually improve that dramatically stretching out to 1 1/4 miles, which goes against all breeding logic? Other than the 114 figure, her last five Beyers have been 99, 98, 98, 97, and 99. So are we going to see a repeat performance of the Pacific Classic in the Breeders’ Cup Classic? Does she have that in her again?
Listening to Stevens, she very well may, or at least come close enough to make it two-for-two against the boys. It is something no one can know or can predict until the field turns for home on Oct. 31.
Stevens said on TVG he had never experienced anything like Beholder’s decimation of the boys in the Pacific Classic, in which she appeared to be moving in a different time frame than the other horses on the far turn, while making one of the most startling moves seen in a very long time…a move she has never made before even in her tour-de-force in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Watch Beholder's Pacific Classic
Stevens said he didn’t even press the button on the turn; it was all her. And when her ears came up approaching the top of the stretch, Stevens thought, “Wow, I’m loaded. I hope the boss (trainer Dick Mandella) doesn’t mind, but I’m gonna let her put on a little show when she swaps onto her right lead.”
When she did, Stevens chirped to her, showed her the whip, and she was gone, coming home her final quarter in :24 3/5, while drawing off to an 8 1/4-length victory in a blazing 1:59 3/5, which earned her that huge 114 Beyer speed figure.
“I let out a scream at the finish line of someone that had never felt that before in a race of this level,” Stevens continued.
Another of her strengths that enables her to turn in dominating performances is her intelligence. Stevens said riding her is like hitting the keys on a computer. You want to slow her down, you hit the backspace. You want her to go, you hit the forward key. Turning for home in the Pacific Classic, Stevens hit the shift key and she shifted into a gear that left him and everyone else in awe. Down the stretch, he finally hit the delete key, which for all intents and purposes deleted the other horses from the race. She seems to sense what the pace is as much as he does. Approaching the gate, Stevens could hear her take a big breath and fill her lungs with oxygen. When he saw Bayern and Midnight Storm at each other’s throats down the backstretch, he just eased back on the reins ever so lightly with three fingers and she just “shut down” for him.
As they eased into the far turn, he let the reins “slide out, maybe a sixteenth of an inch, and she jumped into the bridle. She knew she was going a farther distance than she’s ever raced before and she got in this breathing rhythm down the backside where it was just effortless for her and I could feel the air intake as it was coming out her nostrils and I knew she was loading up for the last three-eighths of a mile like an athlete does.”
Fully loaded, she switched leads on cue and when Stevens moved his hands on her to let her run, she took off and ran away from her opponents, increasing her lead with every stride, while keeping her mind on business all the way to the wire.
So, with her remarkable Pacific Classic score, three consecutive victories in the Zenyatta Stakes, attempting to become the first horse ever to win three different Breeder’s Cup races (Juvenile Fillies, Distaff, and Classic), and having won 15 of 20 career starts, it is safe to say Beholder is on the threshold of “freakdom.”
As far as her pedigree, that’s where it really gets freaky. No one has ever confused the offspring of sprinter Henny Hughes with a mile and a quarter horse. This is all speed (sprinting to a mile) up front, with Henny Hughes strictly a sprinter, his sire Hennessy a sprinter and speed influence, and broodmare sire Meadowlake a fast 2-year-old and speed influence, who did sire Mother Goose winner Meadow Star. This is also the family of speed influence Hagley, who set a track record at Garden State for five furlongs and who sired classy sprinters Hagley’s Reward and Committed. But the first tip that this may be a freaky pedigree came when Henny Hughes' daughter Academic won the Canadian Derby at 1 3/8 miles this year. But unlike Beholder, Academic is out of an Awesome Again mare, so there was quite a bit of help there.
Henny Hughes, won a pair of sprint stakes at 2 and captured the Vosburgh, King’s Bishop, and Jersey Shore Breeders’ Cup at 3 and was part of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s three-headed monster that year, along with Horse of the Year Invasor and Belmont Stakes winner Jazil.
Shuffled back and forth between Australia and America and finally to Japan, Henny Hughes before this year seemed as unlikely a stallion as one would think to sire a grade I winner at 1 1/4 miles, especially bred to a mare who was a sprinter, out of a mare who was a sprinter and from the family of sprinter/miler Clever Trick.
So, how in the world did a daughter of Henny Hughes and Leslie’s Lady run a mile and a quarter in 1:59 3/5, winning by over eight lengths and beating the best older males in California?
I direct your attention to Hennessy’s broodmare sire Hawaii on top and Beholder’s third dam’s sire One For All on bottom. These are two grass horses who were just getting started at a mile and a half.
Hawaii was a South African super horse who came to the U.S. and captured the Man o’ War Stakes, United Nations, and Sunrise Handicap, was second in the Washington D.C. International and was voted champion grass horse of 1969. He retired with 21 victories in 28 starts. Standing at Claiborne Farm, he sired English Derby winner Henbit.
One For All, a son of Northern Dancer, out of champion Quill (by Princequillo), winner of the Acorn, Mother Goose, and Delaware Handicap and second in the Coaching Club American Oaks, captured the Canadian International at 1 5/8 miles, the Sunset Handicap at two miles, and the Pan American Handicap and Laurel Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles. Sent to France for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, he finished in midpack, a respectable seven lengths behind the great Mill Reef.
As a sire, One For All, in addition to siring Beholder’s third dam, also sired million-dollar earner The Very One, a grade I winner of 12 stakes, including a victory over the boys in the 1 1/2-mile Dixie Handicap and placing in six graded stakes against males, including the Washington D.C. International, Japan Cup, Turf Classic, Hialeah Turf Cup, and 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano.
One Last Bird, the aforementioned third dam of Beholder, is the dam of Cougar II winner Melanyhasthepapers, who placed in three other stakes. One Last Bird also is a half sister to the top-class stakes winner Roanoke, winner of the Californian Stakes and Young America Stakes. One Last Bird’s broodmare sire is the great Sea-Bird, winner of the English Derby and Arc de Triomphe and considered one of the greatest European horses of all time. Getting back to Academic, her female family traces to French Derby and Grand Prix de Paris winner Sicambre, who is the broodmare sire of Sea-Bird, so there is a common denominator in the two pedigrees.
I also direct your attention to Leslie’s Lady’s other fourth generation sires – Ribot and Nijinsky, two of the greatest mile and a half horses in the history of European racing. If you ask a European to name the three greatest horses of the modern era, many of them will say Ribot, Sea-Bird, and Nijinsky, all of whom form the foundation of Beholder’s female family. Two of her other fourth generation sires are American stamina influences Tom Fool and Northern Dancer. The latter, of course, is considered by many as the most dominant influence of all time.
Leslie's Lady's broodmare sire, Stop the Music, a son of stamina influence Hail to Reason, was proficient from seven furlongs to 1 1/4 miles and sired 3-year-old champion Temperence Hill, winner of the Belmont Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup Cup at 1 1/2 miles and the Travers, Suburban, and Super Derby at 1 1/4 miles.
This female family traces to the George Widener-bred Patelin, winner of the Selima, Alcibiades, and Schylerville Stakes and placed in the Spinaway, Matron, and Adirondack. Bred to Sea-Bird, she produced Beholder’s fourth dam Last Bird. Patelin is a half sister to the Widener-owned and bred stakes winners Pontifex (winner of the Saratoga Special and Flash Stakes at Saratoga and placed in the Hopeful Stakes) and his full brother Jaikyl, who made 92 starts, winning or placing in 16 stakes.
As for Leslie’s Lady’s sire Tricky Creek, although a son of sprinter/miler Clever Trick, he did win the Omaha Gold Cup at 1 1/8 miles, as well as the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, Colin Stakes, and Discovery Handicap. Clever Trick also sired Anet, winner of the Del Mar Derby, Pegasus, and Lone Star Derby and second in the Haskell Invitational and Illinois Derby; Clever Allemont, winner of the Rebel and Southwest Stakes; and Phone Trick, who sired Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and champion 2-year-old filly Phone Chatter.
So, although Leslie’s Lady was a sprinter, winning the Hoosier Debutante and finishing second in the six-furlong Martha Washington, she has plenty of top-class stamina from the U.S. and Europe throughout her pedigree, and in addition to producing Beholder, she also produced Into Mischief, one of the country’s most popular stallions who won the grade I CashCall Futurity and has sired $3 million earner Goldencents, winner of the Santa Anita Derby and two Breeders’ Cup Dirt Miles; Vicar’s in Trouble, winner of the Louisiana Derby and Super Derby and placed in the Indiana, Iowa, and West Virginia Derbys and Risen Star Stakes; and Vyjack, winner of the Gotham Stakes, Jerome Stakes, and Kelso Handicap.
This is a pedigree top and bottom that is proficient at five and six furlongs as well as 1 1/2 miles and longer, on dirt and grass. That is why Beholder’s pedigree is so freaky, giving her speed close up and tons of stamina farther back.
In addition to her raw talent, tactical speed, class, and intelligence, she has the kind of running style that enables her to adapt to any kind of pace. Whether she’s setting the pace or laying one, two, or three lengths back, she always kicks into gear when you ask her.
In summing up the many facets of her pedigree, it is much more versatile than one might think looking at the abundance of speed in her first two or three generations. But all you have to do is check out the number of class and stamina influences a bit farther back.
It’s safe to say Beholder possesses a freaky pedigree. If she can knock off the best horses in the country in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, that would complete the package.