The excitement as well as the anticipation of owning a racehorse builds in waves.
The first jolt of adrenaline comes when the trainer says, “I think we’ve got a good one,” and anticipation starts its crescendo toward the first race when everyone will discover whether the ability that seems evident is genuine talent.
Winning kicks the excitement up a notch. Wondering how far the horse could go makes the stomach jumpy and the imagination stir. A stakes win seems like a dream, and then “pinch me” it’s real, too. Let’s take a shot at a graded stakes. Are you kidding? Then it’s the roar of the grandstand, the shouts of “come on” and “hold on,” and a packed winner’s circle awash in unimaginable exuberance. Now what about one of the classics, or a race in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships? It is completely unbelievable to think so boldly.
Yet, here is B. Wayne Hughes, a racehorse owner for some 40 years, trying to wrap his head around a horse well outside the realm of unbelievable; so totally otherworldly that the billionaire owner of Spendthrift Farm feels blessed to be associated with her.
Hughes owns Beholder, a 5-year-old daughter of Henny Hughes, who has won nine grade I stakes, owns championship titles at 2 and 3, and has won two Breeders’ Cup races—the 2012 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) and the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I). But neither of those Breeders’ Cup victories was as astounding as her performance in this year’s $1 Million TVG Pacific Classic Stakes (gr. I), becoming the first female to win the race against some of the best male runners in the country.
“Remember Michael Jackson’s moonwalk?” Hughes said recently about the Pacific Classic. “Those horses that had been in front of her looked like they were doing the moonwalk.”
The boisterous appreciation that erupted from the Del Mar grandstand as Beholder romped by 8 1/4 lengths overwhelmed Hughes.
“The reaction of the crowd was truly touching,” he said. “It is special to have a horse who is a part of history.” Indeed so special that Beholder has become priceless. Taken off the table for good is any more talk about selling her as a broodmare prospect.
“I’ve gotten myself emotionally involved—as you can see,” Hughes said. “My girlfriend is on me to keep her. Ned (Toffey, Spendthrift Farm general manager) is on me to keep her. My daughter is on me. As you can see, I don’t have a choice.”
Thankfully, too, for racing and the Breeders’ Cup, Beholder’s racing destiny is still unfolding. Her next challenge will be against Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and another handful of hard-knocking colts in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). Hughes said he has not been nervous at all in the days leading to the Classic because he knows Beholder is in the capable, caring hands of trainer Richard Mandella.
“He has spoiled her beyond belief,” Hughes said. “She’ll be cooling out and dragging the groom over to Richard because he is out there feeding her peppermints.” The only concern Hughes said he has about the Breeders’ Cup regards the weather. If the main track is sloppy, then Hughes said he won’t take any unnecessary risks by running her. If the conditions are good, he is looking forward to seeing the extent of her capabilities.
“In this business you don’t have a lot of good days,” Hughes said. “This experience has been extraordinary. It is great to be a part of a race that means so much more than just who finishes first.” And if everything goes well in the Classic and afterward, Hughes said it may not be the last we see of Beholder.
“We’re having so much fun; I don’t see any reason why we won’t do this again next year,” he said. “Special horses don’t come along very often. Ones like her, maybe they don’t come along again…ever.”