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Treve and Beholder: Two Continents, Two Mares for the Ages

On Sunday in Paris, the 5-year-old mare Treve (pictured) will run in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Europe’s most prestigious and difficult prize.

Four weeks later, on the last Saturday of the month, the 5-year-old mare Beholder will take on a similar challenge when she meets American Pharoah and company in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, North America’s richest Thoroughbred event.

For Treve, winning the Arc would be nothing new. She won it in 2013 as a 3-year-old and then again last year after battling back from injuries that compromised most of her 2014 campaign. No horse has won three Arcs in the history of the race that began in 1920, but females have done well, winning 21 of the 93 runnings.

For Beholder, winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic would rattle the rafters of U.S. racing. For starters, if she handles American Pharoah, she would be defeating the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. She would become the first horse to win three Breeders’ Cup races on the main track since the series began in 1984. And she would emulate Zenyatta as the only female to win the Classic. As shoes go, those are pretty hard to fill.

But Beholder is a mare of her time, owing nothing to the benchmarks of the past, just as Treve is reaching her own heights apart from such brilliant antecedents as Allez France, All Along, Zarkava, and Corrida, the first filly to win the Arc in 1936.

Appropriately enough, Treve began this season by winning the Prix Corrida at Saint-Cloud. Last Saturday, Beholder stayed on theme by winning the Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita in her final Breeders’ Cup rehearsal. Gary Stevens looked like he was having a real good time out there and could have kept on galloping east after the finish line in the general direction of Keeneland, where the Breeders’ Cup awaits for trainer Richard Mandella and owner B. Wayne Hughes.

“It was almost as if she knew she had something big coming up,” Stevens said a few days later. “Like she was on the same wavelength as Richard and I that she didn’t have to do anything fancy. She kept waiting and waiting and waiting for me to do something. When I didn’t chirp to her like I usually do when she swapped into her right lead, it was like she knew. This was not the day.”

It takes a racehorse like Beholder to reduce a Grade 1, $300,000 event to little more than a breeze. The sight of Stevens and his mare loping alongside Mike Smith and Vanity Stakes winner My Sweet Addiction around the final turn and into the stretch was a portrait in controlled burn. The rider was asked if there was any chitchat between the two Hall of Famers as they bowled along.

“It was as quiet as I’ve ever been in a race,” Stevens said. “We didn’t even make eye contact. He knew that I knew that if anyone said anything, it was going to be off to the races, and I didn’t need to do that.”

Beholder went on to win by 3 1/4 lengths, throttled down, while My Sweet Addiction was comfortably second.

“Mike thanked me back in the room for not burying him earlier,” Stevens said. “But he was helping me as well. It was like having a workmate taking me into the stretch. The race was almost identical to one of her morning workouts when Richard has a pacemaker in front of her. I never want to embarrass one of the horses she works with because they have a future as well.”

Such sentiments were not in play when Beholder and Stevens turned the Pacific Classic into an 8 1/4-length romp in August. But that kind of performance was required to set the wheels in motion toward the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Now, with the Zenyatta home and dry, Mandella and his crew have a mare who appears to boast a lethal brew. She is not only fit, she seems fresh as a daisy from a well-spaced campaign.

“It can’t be overrated,” Stevens said. “Mares benefit from a lighter campaign. If you overuse them, you’re going to pay the price. Look at the way Criquette Head has handled Treve – the Arc will be only her fourth start of the year. For Beholder, the Classic will be only her sixth start of the year. And she’s improving.”

Beholder has her sights set on a very high bar. Jolypha could not win the Classic, and she was a champion and a full sister to Arc winner and European Horse of the Year Dancing Brave. Neither could Triptych, who beat colts in the Irish 2000 Guineas and was Europe’s top older mare, or Azeri, the 2002 North American Horse of the Year, or Havre de Grace, Horse of the Year in 2011.

If there is a comparison, however, Beholder could do a lot worse than being mentioned in the same breath as Treve. The month of October will tell the tale.

“It’s pretty neat to see two of the greatest mares of my lifetime running at the same time,” Stevens said.

Especially since he’s riding one of them.

“Maybe I’m saying too much, but I hope I’m not,” Stevens added. “I just have a quiet confidence in what she can do and a lot of confidence in what that stable can do when they have a horse like this.”

-Jay Hovdey, www.drf.com

 

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