By Dan Ross
It’s a sobering fact of life that the act of raising a child is a largely unacknowledged affair.
For sure, birthdays, holidays and other celebratory moments garner plenty of photographs and Facebook likes. But beyond the narrow confines of the family nucleus, there’s only very limited patience for whether little Billy shoved a battery up his nose, or whether darling Annie, dressed as a lobster, stole the show in her elementary school production of Moby Dick.
But rarely–only very rarely–do the formative exploits of individual children garner universal interest. Think George, the young prince of Cambridge, or North West, the cartographically named scion of the Kardashian clan.
In the human world, therefore, young upstarts can spring to prominence from families famous for all sorts of questionable reasons. But in racing, the young equine offspring who generate the loudest public buzz typically belong to parents with a very particular and altogether more notable set of skills: extraordinary speed and athleticism, and superlative discipline in the gridlock of competition.
“Oh yeah, he walks around telling everyone who his mother is,” said trainer Richard Mandella, about the 2-year-old Q B One, a son of Uncle Mo, who arrived in his barn about two weeks ago. Considering the mother in question is a four-time Eclipse Award winner, three-time Breeders’ Cup victor and weaver of infinite racetrack memories by the name of Beholder, there’s much to crow about.
But as is the want of the young and the restless, Q B One has a touch of Narcissus about him, full of youthful self-indulgence.
“He’s good on the racetrack, but he needs to get a little bit better manners in the stall,” Mandella said, with what sounded like a healthy dose of diplomatic understatement. “He wants to paw the door–get a lot of attention. But he’ll get better as we go.”
Make no mistake, Q B One is used to attention. He’s a recurring subject of Beholder’s website, with blog posts detailing when he officially became a yearling, for example, and when first ridden under tack. When it came time to find him a name, owner-breeder Spendthrift Farm turned it into a public competition, with the tagline, “Help Name the Prince!” His grand arrival at Santa Anita–he’s currently in Beholder’s old stall, opposite Mandella’s office–was met with fanfare on social media.
Raul Reyes is the owner-manager of King’s Equine training center in Florida, where Q B One underwent more than three months of pre-training, having been broken prior to that by Kevin Noltemeyer in Kentucky. Reyes tells a similar story of childish folly, describing Q B One as “demanding–kicking on the door when he wants to go out,” and “a bit pushy.”
But to ride, “he’s very easy,” said Reyes. “I don’t have any problems putting any rider on him. I kept the same kid on him most of the time, but he was never a problem.” Not that Q B One found things at middle school particularly exacting. “He’s a big, strong colt, 16.1,” Reyes added. “For him, training, it’s kind of easy.”
For years, Reyes has been Spendthrift-supremo B. Wayne Hughes’s go-to guy for pre-training. As such, Reyes is in the enviable position of being able to compare mother and son.
“Beholder was a lady–she never did anything wrong. Very quiet. She just trained and did whatever she had to do,” he said. “I don’t have too many memories of her as she never got into trouble.”
Beholder’s exercise rider, Janeen Painter–now Mandella’s assistant–describes Q B One as tall and rangy, whereas mom was smaller and lean when she first arrived at the Mandella barn. “But she was well-proportioned,” Painter added. “Everything fit–everything was where it was supposed to be.
Intelligent, too. “I don’t remember galloping her in company ever,” said Painter. Nor did it take Beholder long to advertise her unusual merits. “I breezed her an eighth of a mile when she first came in,” said Painter. “I remember coming back and I said to [a former colleague], I said, ‘She’s the one–don’t ask me how I know. I’m telling you she can do anything.”
Beholder’s resume is about as close to the all-encompassing “anything” as you’ll find in a racehorse, with a career that she kick-started early–in late June of her 2-year-old year, in fact. Just over four months later, she’d won her first Grade I, the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
“It’s too early,” said Mandella, to tell whether Q B One will prove as precocious. “He’s just beginning more serious work,” said Mandella. “We won’t make him too excited about that until we get him fit enough. So far, he’s done everything we’ve asked as far as training, but we’re not asking much yet.”
As for Painter, she already has her eye on Beholder’s yearling filly by Curlin. “You look at her body, you look at her color, you look at her face, and you’re like, ‘Oooh, there’s mom,'” Painter said.
“She was a yearling, and she was brought in out of the field,” Painter added, recalling her introduction to the youngster. “She finally stood still, and I’m touching her. ‘Wow, what a nice filly.’ She turned away from me, and when she looked back, her ears were lying down flat against her head, her nose was wrinkled up, and she went for my face with her mouth open. I was like, ‘This is the one! This is the one!'”