Relief and smiles were the order of the day within Keeneland's Barn 60 Thursday as Spendthrift Farm's champion mare Beholder took her first spin around the track, galloping once around the oval two days after spiking a mild fever.
Unlike the somber mood Tuesday morning when trainer Richard Mandella got word that his brilliant Breeders' Cup Classic hopeful had a slightly elevated temperature, the shedrow seemed energized as Beholder headed out around 7:30 a.m. with exercise rider Janeen Painter in the irons.
Painter had her hands full as the two-time Eclipse Award winner bounced toward the track and the two went for an easy gallop with Mandella and Spendthrift Farm manager Ned Toffey watching near the backstretch gap.
"This is a lot better morning than that first one," Mandella said. "She looked great. We took her up there and gave her a simple, once-around gallop because she had had a few days off and we didn't want to fuss around. But she had a great day, looked great going over the racetrack and looked pretty happy here cooling out."
As he departed the barn Thursday morning, Toffey wore a look of relief he wasn't sure would be possible a couple days ago.
"My fever is down too," Toffey joked.
Mandella said Beholder would gallop again Friday but that he was unsure when the nine-time Grade I winner would have her final work before her expected start in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 31.
"She came here ready to run," Mandella said. "What day I breeze her or how far is not going to be a big difference. It's a matter of her being healthy and happy. We will get a little breeze, but I'll let her tell me what day."
Beholder, winner of the 2012 Juvenile Fillies and 2013 Distaff, missed last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff when she spiked a fever and was found to have mild inflammation in her lungs which necessitated her being turned out for two months.
Liam's Map heads slate of Pletcher workers
Grade I winner Liam's Map elicited high praise from his famously stoic trainer, Todd Pletcher, on Thursday after working 5 furlongs in 1:01.20 at Keeneland. It was his final piece of serious work before an expected start in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile on Oct. 30.
Liam's Map headed up a slate of five Pletcher-trained, Breeders' Cup-bound contenders getting breezes in. The likely favorite for the Dirt Mile was among the most impressive of the bunch, working solo with jockey Javier Castellano.
After breaking off from his lead pony, Liam's Map recorded splits of :124⁄5, :244⁄5, :371⁄5, and 1:011⁄5 with an ultra-impressive gallop-out in 1:133⁄5 and 1:264⁄5. After cooling out back at the barn, the 4-year-old attacked his hay with vigor.
"Liam's Map I thought was outstanding," Pletcher said. "He got into a very steady rhythm, was very relaxed and comfortable. I told Javier to let him pick it up that last part, and he just really lengthened his stride and leveled off. He looked good finishing ,and I thought he galloped out exceptionally well."
Though many thought Liam's Map should take a swing at the 11/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic in the wake of his 43/4-length victory in the Grade I Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 5, the Dirt Mile — on paper — is the perfect fit for the gray colt with effortless, front-end speed. He was a neck away from leading every step of the Grade I Whitney on Aug. 8 and has proven he can come off the bit while still maintaining his high cruising rhythm.
"I think it's something we have worked on," Pletcher said. "He's a horse who is brilliantly fast, but he can carry it over a distance of ground. Those type of horses, we don't want to take away their strength. Part of what he does — as you saw in the Woodward and almost in the Whitney — is he had a high cruising speed; and if you don't go with him, you're in trouble, and if you go with him, you're in more trouble."
■ Multiple Grade I winner Curalina also impressed in her last pre-Breeders' Cup work. The 3-year-old daughter of Curlin worked 4 furlongs in :48.20 in company with Race Day in her preparation for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff on Oct. 30.
"It was a typical breeze from her, very straightforward, very much on the bridle throughout," Pletcher said. "It was pretty much the standard excellent breeze we've come to expect from her. I think she continues to handle the track really well, looks good. She's actually put on a few pounds since the Beldame (on Sept. 26)."
Curalina finished second in the Grade I Beldame and is in the running for divisional honors after winning the Grade I Acorn Stakes on June 6 and being elevated to first in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks when I'm a Chatterbox was disqualified due to interference.
■ Distaff contender Got Lucky, winner of the Grade I Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland, put in a workmanlike move, going 4 furlongs in :48.40 in company while Azar (Juvenile Turf) and Thrilled (Juvenile Fillies Turf) worked 4 furlongs in company in :48 flat.
"Thrilled and Azar both went very well," Pletcher said. "For horses who have run only on the turf, they both handle the dirt here really well. Got Lucky is a filly who knows the difference between practice and game time, and I thought it was a typical ... type half for her. Just kind of a maintenance work."