Sport

Breeders' Cup preview: Distaff pits Songbird vs Beholder and Stellar Wind

Breeders' Cup preview: Distaff pits Songbird vs Beholder and Stellar Wind

The Breeders' Cup Distaff delivered one of the greatest finishes in the meeting's history here on Friday, as Songbird surrendered her unbeaten record to Beholder by a nose after a thrilling duel down the stretch.

Never worse than second in 16 starts at her home track and a three-time USA champion filly, Beholder was winning her 11 Grade 1 contest and her third Breeders' Cup event altogether, having won the Distaff in 2013, the year after she had won the Juvenile Fillies.

Forever Unbridled rallied to finish third, 1 ¼ lengths in back of Songbird and 2 ½ lengths in front of Stellar Wind.

Beholder wrapped up her career with 18 wins in 26 starts, including victories in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and the 2013 Breeders' Cup Distaff.

As anticipated, the race ended in an all-out, head and head battle, and as if the racing Gods hand-wrote the story of the daughter of Henny Hughes themselves, Beholder prevailed by a nostril, handing Songbird her first defeat in twelve starts, and capping off an illustrious four-year career, with a final signature victory.

Songbird, a 3-year-old, has won all 11 starts, including five over the Santa Anita strip.

"It was just a street fight", Gary Stevens, the winning jockey, said afterwards.

Songbird had never even been seriously tested until Friday, but she proved she was every bit as worthy to run in the most important race for fillies and mares.

"It's probably the most emotional race of my career because she's so special to me and it's her last race". Some thought Beholder, who had lost three in a row and was defeated by Stellar Wind twice this year, was a shade past her prime.

"She gave me absolutely everything today", Stevens said. I have a new respect for Songbird even in defeat. She is expected to run as a 4-year-old; next year's Breeders' Cup will be held at Del Mar.

Beholder's jockey, Gary Stevens, said after the race that "the show that those two put on" was "worth the admission".

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He smiled. "I've always said that really good horses appreciate my training better than others", he said.

Songbird has attracted a huge following in winning each of her 11 races and has claims to be regarded as the best three-year-old of either sex in the US. "In losing, I feel like we won".

"I can't fault Songbird or Beholder", Hollendorfer said. Gun Runner had grabbed the advantage when Smith brought Tamarkuz flying through the stretch to win by 3 1/2 lengths. But, I knew she had one big one left in her and she didn't disappoint.

"Sadly the radiographs ... revealed that she had a much more serious injury than it was apparent on the racetrack", on-call veterinarian Dr. Scott Palmer said in a statement.

Smith extended his record for Breeders' Cup wins for a jockey to 23 as he guided the 11-1 Tamarkuz to a first win in seven North American starts. "Larry Jones has a filly named I'm a Chatterbox [12-1] that is coming off a devastating win in the Spinster [at Keeneland]".

"People ask me on a daily basis why I'm still riding", Stevens said.

New Money Honey, another 6-1 shot, won the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf by a half-length under Javier Castellano.

Corona Del Inca, a Breeders' Cup Challenge victor making her first start since May in Argentina, was injured and euthanized. It was later discovered that she had also fractured her sesamoid and pastern and was humanely euthanized. In the other two she finished fourth, and one of those was her debut.

Not This Time, the 5-2 favorite, returned $4.60 and $3.40, while Practical Joke was another 7 1/2 lengths back in third and paid $4.60 to show.

Featuring three of the top female horses in the world, the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita promises to be a horse racing event for the ages.

In the $1 million Juvenile Turf, 6-1 shot Oscar Performance won by 1 1/4 lengths, giving jockey Jose Ortiz and trainer Brian Lynch their first Cup victories.


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