Beholder, Gary Stevens

Beholder, with Gary Stevens aboard, breezes to victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Friday at Santa Anita Park. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press / November 1, 2013)

The expected battle between two-time Distaff winner Royal Delta and Kentucky Oaks winner Princess Of Sylmar never materialized as Beholder stole the show with a 4 1/4-length win in the $2-million race for fillies and mares.

The featured race during the first day of the two-day Breeders' Cup championships had the Santa Anita crowd on its feet in anticipation. Royal Delta, with jockey Mike Smith, was made the 3-2 favorite. She was looking to win this race for third straight time, this time as a 5-year-old.

Her main competition was supposed to be coming from Princess Of Sylmar, winner of nine of her last 10 races, including a stirring win in the Kentucky Oaks. Princess Of Sylmar had beaten Royal Delta in their only meeting, a Grade 1 stakes at Belmont on Sept. 28.

But it was Beholder who showed she was best on this warm San Gabriel Valley day.

Authenticity took a small lead over Royal Delta for the first three-quarters of a mile while Beholder stalked confidently in third. As they entered the far turn Beholder passed Royal Delta and by mid-turn had reeled in Authenticity. From there it was clear sailing as jockey Gary Stevens hand-rode Beholder to an easy victory.

Beholder was certainly not a longshot, having won six of her last eight races entering Friday. She paid $7.60, 4.20 and 3.20. Close Hatches paid 6.60 and 4.80 to place and Authenticity returned 3.20 to show. Royal Delta finished fourth and Princess Of Sylmar, never a factor, placed sixth and last.

It was Stevens ninth' Breeders' Cup victory and first since 2000. It was trainer Richard Mandella's  eighth Breeders' Cup win, all at Santa Anita.

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