By Mark Lamport-Stokes
ARCADIA, California (Reuters) - Kentucky-bred Beholder led from the front most of the way before holding off slight favorite Executiveprivilege to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita Park on Friday.
Ridden by veteran jockey Garrett Gomez, Beholder surged across the line a length ahead of Executiveprivilege to hand trainer Richard Mandella his seventh career win at the Breeders' Cup.
Bob Baffert-trained Executiveprivilege, the 3-2 favorite in a tightly contested race, settled for second, four-and-a-quarter lengths in front of Dreaming of Julia on a sunny afternoon in Southern California.
Kauai Katie, joint second favorite with Beholder at 9-2, burst out of the starting gate to take an early lead but Beholder took control after the first turn and never relinquished control.
Though Executiveprivilege gained from the outside down the stretch, Beholder made the most of her renowned speed as she powered ahead to the finish.
"About a 100 yards out, I was getting concerned but I saw that she had that look in her eye that she wouldn't give up," Mandella told reporters while sipping on champagne. "She ran her heart out.
"It was a big effort and being at her home track sure helps. I guess Santa Anita still has the magic."
Gomez was delighted by Beholder's form after securing his 14th career win at the Breeders' Cup.
"We figured to be on the lead unless someone did something, and she ran just to her style," the 40-year-old said. "She's super fast, and she relaxed as much as I wanted her to.
"I tried to sneak away a little on the turn for home, and at first she did it, but then she acted like she hit a wall and I got a little nervous.
"But when the other filly (Executiveprivilege) came to her, she kicked on and gave me another gear. I guess she was just playing possum with me."
Beholder was competing over a mile and one-sixteenth for the first time in her fledgling career and had never previously made two turns in a race.
She had initially been entered for both the Juvenile Sprint and the Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita but her trainer decided to withdraw her from the shorter distance on Monday.
The $2 million Juvenile Fillies was the fourth event of six on the opening day of the two-day Breeders' Cup extravaganza.
(Editing by Gene Cherry)