Stellar Wind ekes out Clement L. Hirsch victory over Beholder

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Jen Caldwell

July 31st, 2016

It was tight, very tight, in the stretch run of Saturday’s $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar but, in the end, Stellar Wind finally got the best of fellow champion Beholder to give trainer John Sadler a very nice 60th birthday present.

The duo met up in the Vanity Mile (G1) last out on June 4 at Santa Anita Park, and on that occasion, which was Stellar Wind’s seasonal bow, Beholder easily pulled away to score under a hand ride.

Not so this time around, as Stellar Wind kept pressure on the multi-millionaire throughout the 1 1/16-mile Hirsch.

Beholder bounded to the front when the gates opened but Stellar Wind was fast on her hooves, latching onto the six-year-old mare’s flank in the run-up to the backstretch. The Dream settled into a stalking spot just in behind Beholder on the inside.

Not much changed through the opening half-mile in :23.63 and :47.38, with the two champions leading the way into the final bend. They began distancing themselves from the rest of the field and Stellar Wind inched forward to be running in tandem with Beholder by the time they hit the lane.

Jockey Victor Espinoza never quit on Stellar Wind, continuing to urge her on the entire length of the stretch. The four-year-old filly grabbed a short lead only to have her rival come back on the inside. They continued battling all the way to the wire where, finally, Stellar Wind managed to gain a clear advantage just in time to cross under the line.

The final margin separating the two was a half-length, and Stellar Wind stopped the clock in 1:41.24 to return $11 as the 9-2 second choice to Beholder’s 1-10 favoritism. It was 9 3/4 lengths back to Divina Comedia in third, another 11 1/4 lengths to Off the Road in fourth and one length to The Dream, who brought up the rear.

Stellar Wind is now 6-2-1 from 10 career starts and has earned $1,173,200 lifetime. The Curlin filly began her career with trainer Donald Barr before being purchased privately by Hronis Racing LLC and turned over to John Sadler after breaking her maiden in her second start by 8 3/4 lengths at Laurel Park.

Thus Stellar Wind traveled to California, where she proceeded to take both the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) and Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) to open her sophomore season. Despite a rough trip the chestnut miss managed to rally for fourth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) next out at Churchill Downs, then headed back to the West Coast for a pair of wins in the Summertime Oaks (G2) at Santa Anita and Torey Pines Stakes (G3) at Del Mar.

The Virginia-bred lass closed out her three-year-old campaign with a run in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at Keeneland, and just missed by neck after rallying from well back. That was enough for Stellar Wind to be honored with an Eclipse Award as the champion three-year-old filly of 2015.

Bred by Keswick Stables and Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC, Stellar Wind is the first registered foal out of the Malibu Moon mare Evening Star. Her dam is a half-sister to Grade 3-placed stakes heroines Im Out First, granddam of Grade 1 scorer Mor Spirit, and Zenith, who foaled Grade 1 victor Great Hunter. This female family also boasts multiple Grade 1 queen Love Sign and her Group 1-winning half-sister Melodist.

Stellar Wind photos courtesy of Benoit Photos


Victor Espinoza, jockey Stellar Wind, winner: “There were no special instructions (from trainer John Sadler). It was just a matter of ‘Ride the race the way it comes up.’ She came out of there a little slow and I had to move her up to get position. But she was good (with it). The last time (Vanity), she needed the race. This time she was ready.

“This was exciting. I knew I was riding against a Hall of Fame jockey on top of the best mare in the country. That’s hard. That’s not easy at all. But some luck and some skill got it done.

“I knew she was working well. Her works were excellent. So I had a lot of confidence in her today. When I came up alongside Gary (Stevens aboard Beholder), it was exciting. She’s a special filly. She showed it today.”

John Sadler, trainer Stellar Wind, winner: “You usually don’t get what you want on your birthday, but this year, I did. She’s been training well. She won here last year. And if you think about it, she probably was the best in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff – I don’t think anybody would dispute that.

“She had a prep race (June 4 Vanity) that was a good race. Victor got off her and said ‘You know, I think we can beat (Beholder) next time.’ I kept my mouth shut because I didn’t want to look like an idiot, but we thought we had a chance. The difference was having a race and this one (1 1/16 miles) being a little longer.

“It’s good for her and she’s an improving, lightly-raced horse. We’re kind of following Beholder a little bit. She’s a lightly raced mare and we’d like to race her two more years. She’s not a horse to run every month, so we’ll probably run her in the Zenyatta (Stakes [G1] at Santa Anita) and then the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.”

Gary Stevens, jockey Beholder, second: “She ran her race. You’ve got to give them (Stellar Wind connections) credit. (Beholder) was comfortable up front. The fractions weren’t hard for her. At the three-furlong pole, I saw that shadow (Stellar Wind) and I knew we might have a race. My mare hit another gear at the three-sixteenth (pole), but she (Stellar Wind) stayed right with us. I was surprised that she was staying with us. All credit to them. They were ready and they ran great.”

Richard Mandella, trainer Beholder, second: “It was a good race for my horse. That other mare ran a helluva race.”

Joe Talamo, jockey Divina Comedia, third: “She ran great. I was riding hard, but I was watching what was going on up front. No shame for my mare to run third to those two.”