Spendthrift Farm LLC’s multiple champion Beholder was supposed to close out her 2015 season in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Keeneland, but an illness forced trainer Richard Mandella to withdraw the popular and talented mare just days before her epic showdown with Triple Crown hero and eventual Horse of the Year American Pharoah.

While that colt took up a new career in the shedrow, Beholder began preparing for her six-year-old campaign, and on Sunday got that underway in her usual stellar fashion in the $100,345 Adoration (G3) at Santa Anita Park.

With regular jockey Gary Stevens aboard, the bay mare didn’t get the best of starts, breaking in and finding herself four wide heading into the first turn of the 1 1/16-mile contest.

Beholder stalked early before moving up outside of Sheer Pleasure, who took over after a quarter and set splits of :48.25 and 1:12.44. The Henny Hughes mare drew even rounding the turn and proceeded on to the lead to finish 2 1/2 lengths in front of Sheer Pleasure in a final time of 1:42.73 over the fast main track.

Beholder paid $2.10 for the win as the 1-20 favorite, while Sheer Pleasure had 2 1/4 lengths to spare over All Star Bub. Moyo Honey, Backintheacademy and She’s Reddy completed the order of finish.

Beholder has now captured seven straight and boasts a 21-16-3-0, $4,496,600 career record. Her past wins include nine Grade 1s, including last year’s Pacific Classic against the boys, the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Distaff and 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Beholder photo courtesy of Benoit Photos

ADORATION QUOTES

Gary Stevens, Beholder, winner: “When I got on her, she let out a big sigh, which tells you a horse is relaxed. I said, ‘That’s my mama.’ That was the only thing said between me and Roberto (pony rider) on the way to the gate.

“She left there sweet like she always does. She went over super, super quiet today. I almost thought I had her too quiet. Richard does all the work, along with (exercise rider) Janeen (Painter) and the whole crew and I get to have all the fun and that’s all that was, was fun.

“I had to let her do a little something the last sixteenth because she wanted to. She had fun, I had fun.

“Being off as long as she has is a tribute to Richard and Mr. Hughes showing that kind of patience. The sky’s the limit for her. She didn’t take so much as a deep breath when I pulled her up. She’s a very happy mare.”

Richard Mandella, Beholder, winner: “She was supposed to win this race, and that usually makes trainers more nervous than anything, because you realize how bad you look if you get them beat, so you’ve got to live with that.

“The Vanity looks like the next step (Vanity Mile, Grade I, $400,000 on June 4). I couldn’t be happier with the way she’s come back at six years old. I’m proud of Mr. (owner B. Waynes) Hughes for letting me have her back (to train).”

Asked how Beholder stacked up compared to other great fillies he has trained: “I think she speaks for herself. I’m going to leave it at that.”

Wayne Hughes, Beholder, winner: “I don’t know how much this kind of race does for her but Richard thought it was the way to go, and he’s in charge.

“Not only am I still thinking about going up against the boys but I want Nyquist to be the Triple Crown winner. Because we got sick last year, it’s very important to us to be able to take a shot at a Triple Crown winner. I think it would be amazing.

“I don’t have any idea what’s next; Richard makes those decisions.

“It’s a very nice feeling knowing she can train and run up to the Breeders’ Cup here at home. She doesn’t do well traveling. Neither do I though at 82, so we have that in common.

“It was my decision to run her at age six but Richard approved it. If she has a good year this year, I’ll do it again next year at age seven. Why not?! She’s having a good time, she’s really happy. I had a long talk with Gary on the plane flying back this morning and he told me she’s bigger and better than she ever was before so I asked him how he knows. He said, ‘by the girth, it’s bigger!’ So why stop? I see no reason to stop.

“Richard had The Tin Man running here at age eight. He’s the kind of trainer, a rare trainer that can do that. You don’t see a lot of trainers keeping their horses around for long periods of time. Richard is the real deal.”