Stellar Wind just holds Beholder to take Zenyatta
The 1 1/16-mile contest was the third straight time Stellar Wind faced Beholder. The chestnut daughter of Curlin finished second in their first meeting in the Vanity Mile (G1) and then evened the score when taking the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) last out on July 30.
The Zenyatta was Beholder’s chance to turn that around, and the much anticipated rematch lived up to its billing.
Like the Hirsch, Beholder found herself on the lead and pressed the entire time. The multiple champion set splits of :23.55, :46.23 and 1:09.75 while never given a breather. Tara’s Tango and Stellar Wind were the two putting the pressure on at first, then it was just Stellar Wind upon hitting the lane.
The four-year-old lass stuck her head in front in the stretch, but Beholder was still fighting down on the rail.
In the end, Stellar Wind just would not yield, holding a slim neck margin on the wire while stopping the clock in 1:41.80 over the fast main track. In the process, she earned an all-fees paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), a race she just missed in by a neck last year.
It was 11 3/4 lengths back to third-place finisher Vale Dori, who took the show spot by a half-length over Tara’s Tango. Off the Road completed the order under the wire another 4 1/4 lengths behind.
Stellar Wind’s second in the 2015 Distaff capped off an Eclipse Award-winning season that also included victories in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1), Summertime Oaks (G2), Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) and Torrey Pines Stakes (G3). Her only misstep as a sophomore besides the Distaff came when rallying from a very troubled trip to be fourth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1).
Bred in Virginia by Keswick Stables and Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, Stellar Wind opened her career with a third-place run in her debut before romping by 8 3/4 lengths in her next start, both of which came at Laurel Park under the tutelage of trainer Donald Barr. That was enough for Hronis Racing to purchase her privately and transfer her to California and the barn of trainer John Sadler.
Stellar Wind now boasts a career record of 11-7-2-1, $1,353,200. She is the first registered foal out of the Malibu Moon mare Evening Star.
Stellar Wind photo courtesy of Scott Shapiro
Victor Espinoza, jockey Stellar Wind, winner: “It’s a great day. I worked harder in her last race, the Clement Hirsch, than I did today. It’s always good to be next to Beholder, next to the queen, it’s always a plus. To be able to pull away the last eighth, it’s not easy! It’s hard but Stellar Wind is an incredible mare and she will continue to be good.
“(Winning three Grade 1s in a day) is why I’m here, to win. That’s’ why I worked so hard and dedicated myself to be successful in my career early on. Now, I have the chance and opportunity and I can’t waste it. I have to keep going until the day that I retire.”
John Sadler, trainer Stellar Wind, winner: “We thought she’d be a better four-year-old. These mares peak at four and she’s a bigger, stronger horse this year. She’s relatively fresh and we get to go into the Breeders’ Cup off of three starts. We’re looking forward to it.
“She ran so well last time, I thought this race would be very similar to what it was – another battle, and we were lucky enough to prevail a second time. The rubber match (coming up). We’re looking forward to it.”
Kosta Hronis, co-owner Stellar Wind, winner: “I’m just thrilled. She’s brilliant. I think she’s the best so we’re looking forward to the Breeders’ Cup. She’s got five weeks off, she’ll just keep her normal schedule and she’ll be ready to go.”
Gary Stevens, jockey Beholder, second: “Nothing really went wrong, except I was on the lead and a sitting duck once again. No pace except for me, and realistic fractions. I flat got out-run. I have no excuses. Carrying equal weight. Hat’s off to the winner, and hat’s off to my mare. She shows up every day. Unfortunately three losses in a row, and it’s tough for a champion. She’s pretty special for me, and hopefully we can bounce back and get some pace in the Breeders’ Cup, or the stars will change. Hat’s off to the winner.”
Richard Mandella, trainer Beholder, second: “We’ll go to the Distaff from here. My mare didn’t look like she ever gave up and those two finished well clear of the rest of them. We didn’t really intend to go to the lead, but with a five-horse field, what are you gonna do? Not to make excuses, but yes, I think a full field will help us next time.”