Champion Stellar Wind and three other older fillies and mares were entered Wednesday morning to face mighty Beholder in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes.
Post position draw was scheduled Wednesday afternoon but the field, in alphabetical order is: Beholder, Divina Comedia, Off the Road, Stellar Wind and The Dream.
The 1 1/16-mile main track event, won by Beholder in 2015 as a stepping stone to her historic victory over males in the TVG Pacific Classic, is a “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge race for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff on November 3 at Santa Anita.
Beholder, who worked five furlongs in :59.20 on Sunday, galloped around the Del Mar oval Wednesday morning, as she will do every day leading up to the 23rd career start for the 6-year-old daughter of Henny Hughes, a three-time Eclipse Award winner and earner of more than $4.7 million.
Trainer Richard Mandella nominated two stablemates of Beholder, Juno and Off the Road, to the Hirsch. The Hall of Fame conditioner said Monday morning that Off the Road is a go, but Juno will be pointed to the Osunitas Stakes on Sunday, August 7.
Off the Road, a 5-year-old, Brazilian-bred daughter of Quick Road owned by Quick Road Stable, was imported from Brazil and made her U.S. racing debut last October at Santa Anita. She is winless in five starts, all at Santa Anita, at both the allowance and overnight stakes level under five different riders.
“It’s a Grade I and I hope to get some black type (graded stakes success) on her record,” Mandella said. “I don’t think she can beat Beholder, but you never know.”
Stellar Wind, the top 3-year-old filly of 2015, was runner-up to Beholder, beaten a length and a half, in the Grade I Vanity at Santa Anita on June 4. The race was the 2016 debut for Stellar Wind, the second of the year for Beholder, who has won eight straight races.
Divina Comedia, a 5-year-old French-bred mare trained by Simon Callaghan for Marsha Naify, was fifth in the Vanity, but came back a month later to win the Southern Truce in 1:42.89 at the Hirsch distance.
“It’s a pretty stiff task for our filly, but she just won the listed stakes and is training well,” Callaghan said. “Beholder and Stellar Wind are clearly a class above, but we’re hoping we can get a part of (the purse).”
The Dream is a Chilean-bred Group I winner in her native country making her U.S. debut for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
#1 Beholder – The champion is back at Del Mar as she plans to prep for the Pacific Classic once again. She’ll only face four rivals today, but at this point in a race against filly’s and mare’s you are not going to attract very many to run against her. Stellar Wind is a very nice filly, but doesn’t hold a candle to the beast that is Beholder. Expect more of the same today as she’s now won 8 in a row and will most likely ride a 9 race win streak into the Pacific Classic and an absolute showdown with California Chrome.
#2 Stellar Wind – Glad to see she’s back today after a really good 2016 debut when she finished second to Beholder. The ultimate goal for Stellar Wind is the Breeders Cup Distaff where Beholder most likely won’t be which is good for her because she seems to be one step below the champion like everyone else. I expect Stellar Wind to give Beholder a little bit of a battle today, perhaps similar to how Dortmund gave California Chrome a battle last week, but in the end Beholder is too good to slip up today.
NONE – Hard to see anyone but Beholder of Stellar Wind winning this one so I can’t recommend any longshot plays in this spot.
#3 The Dream – Makes her United States debut in a very tough spot, but like any of these I have listed as “throw outs” their chance of getting third is pretty strong. The top two however just look too good.
#5 Divina Comedia – Picked up a win last time out, but two races back she was easily beaten by both Beholder and Stellar Wind. Should be more of the same today.
#4 Off the Road – Has really been thrown to the wolves today as she just doesn’t seem to match up well with any other horse in the race.