ARCADIA, Calif. (UPI) -- Beholder edged previously undefeated Songbird by a nose after a thrilling stretch battle between the generations in Friday's $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita.
Beholder, a 6-year-old mare who won this race in 2013, let her 3-year-old rival lead the way all the way to the top of the stretch in the 1 1/8-miles race. Then, jockey Gary Stevens set Beholder down for the final furlong, only to see Songbird, with Mike Smith up, keep finding more.
With Beholder on the outside and Songbird inside, the battle was engaged and it was not resolved until the judges examined the photo -- which showed a finish so tight it was just short of a dead heat.
Forever Unbridled ran a huge race to finish third, 1 1/4 lengths back. Stellar Wind, who had defeated Beholder the last two times they met, was another 2 1/2 lengths in arrears in fourth at the end of the Distaff. Beholder finished in 1:49.20.
Beholder, a daughter of Henny Hughes, is expected to be retired after this race. She would finish with 18 wins from 26 starts and earnings of more than $6 million for her owners, Spendthrift Farm. Richard Mandella trains the mare, who likely will win her fourth divisional Eclipse Award.
Songbird came into the race with 11 wins from 11 starts, stretching back to her 2-year-old season. She had never won by less than 3 3/4 lengths and likely is the best 3-year-old of either gender in this year's American racing. But she also had never run against older horses or rivals as talented as she faced in the Distaff.
The Distaff was the capper on the first day of the Breeders' Cup World championships -- a day that saw American 2-year-olds put European rivals in their place in grass racing -- a relative rarity.
Oscar Performance, living up to his name in his first Southern California race, started the day's Championship races by defeating a tough international field in the $1 million Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
The Kitten's Joy colt, with Jose Ortiz in the irons, sat right off the pace in the early furlongs of the 1-mile test, moved to the lead as the field headed for home and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths, running 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.28.
Ortiz said the plan was to take up station right behind the leader heading into the first turn. Starting from gate No. 11, he did just that had a perfect trip before moving to the lead.
Lancaster Bomber, arguably the top European in the field, broke a step slowly from the inside post position, was shuffled back and did well to come running late to take second, a neck in front of Good Samaritan.
Oscar Performance started his career in New York, winning on the second try at Saratoga by 10 1/4 lengths, then taking the Grade III Pilgrim at Belmont Park last month by 6 lengths over yielding turf. Owner Jerry Amerman said he would "love to" visit Royal Ascot with the colt next June.
Tamarkuz, winless since taking the Group 2 Godolphin Mile in Dubai 20 months ago, swept by the early leaders in the stretch run of the $1 million Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and went on to an 11-1 upset win.
Gun Runner prompted the pace and held on for second, 3 1/2 lengths back. Extreme long shot Accelerate advanced up the rail to nip the odds-on favorite, Dortmund, for show money. Tamarkuz, a 6-year-old son of Speightstown, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.72 under Mike Smith, who extended his record for Breeders' Cup winning rides to 23.
Runhappy, winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint, set a fast early pace before fading in the final 2 furlongs to finish eighth of nine.
The Dubai victory on World Cup night in 2015 was Tamarkuz' fourth in a row. Shifted to the United States, he missed in six straight races although he did finish a good second in his two most recent starts in New York, losing the Grade I Forego to A.P. Indian by 2 1/2 lengths and the Grade II Kelso by 2 lengths to Anchor Down.
Tamarkuz is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin for Shadwell Stable.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
New Money Honey rallied down the stretch to win the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, edging Coasted by 1/2 length. The normally strong European contingent had a tough go, with French-based Cavale Doree finishing third for their best showing.
New Money Honey, a daughter of Medaglia d'Oro, was always in contention behind a runaway earlier leader. She advanced outside rivals into the turn and wore down her rivals, running 1 mile on firm turf under Javier Castellano in 2:34.01 for her second straight win. She and Coasted finished first and third in the Grade III Miss Grillo at Belmont Park in their last outing.
A squadron of European 2-year-old fillies finished up the track. Among them, Intricately and Hydrangea, first and second in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland, reported home 11th and last of 14, respectively. Roly Poly, second by a nose in the Group 2 Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket in England, was ninth. Spain Burg, winner of three straight in France and England, finished 10th.
"I've been competing in this race since they started it," said winning trainer Chad Brown, "and I think this is one of the strongest editions of it."
He said New Money Honey trains well on dirt, too, and he sees her as a Kentucky Oaks prospect for 2017.