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After a disappointing performance in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Stellar Wind is set to make her 2017 debut in the Grade 1, $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park. The trip to Oaklawn Park will be her third try at a Grade 1 outside the state of California. Her previous two tries (Kentucky Oaks in 2015 and Breeders Cup Distaff in 2015) were losing efforts. The Hronis Racing-owned mare will break from post 3.
Her main rival, breaking from the rail, will be Terra Promessa, who looks to rebound off of a terrible trip in the Grade 3 Azeri Stakes last time out. Before that race, she had a perfect record at Oaklawn Park, but major traffic trouble resulting from a poor ride caused her to finish off the board. With this rail draw, you would think that she’ll use her natural speed and try to take the field wire-to-wire.
Rounding out the field is the Azeri winner, Streamline; a two-time winner at this meet, Divine Elegance, the Azeri third-place finisher, Tiger Moth; and the Randy Morse-trained Durango. The Apple Blossom will go off as the ninth race on Friday and serves as one of only two Grade 1 races ran at Oaklawn Park.
#3 Stellar Wind – Even though 2016 ended with disappointment, it was still an amazing year for Stellar Wind. She defeated Beholder TWICE and stamped herself as a fantastic horse. Unfortunately, she had a dull effort in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, which allowed Beholder to turn the tables on her in a big way. However, there is no Beholder in this race, nor is there a Songbird. As long as she’s ready to run, this shouldn’t be a contest; she towers over the rest of this field. Coming off the layoff, she might be a little risky to single, but make no mistake that she is the most talented horse in the race by a wide margin.
#1 Terra Promessa – What a terrible ride by Irad Ortiz last time on this filly… notice he is not riding here. She was strangled early on, had traffic trouble on the first turn because of it, and then ran into major traffic trouble on the second turn when she was beginning to make her run. It was an embarrassing effort to say the least, and with a better trip here, she will certainly have a big shot. With her natural speed and rail draw, she’ll surely be put on the lead this time. If she gets her own way up top, she will prove hard to pass. All of her fans will certainly be happy with the jockey change to the other Ortiz brother, Jose.
#6 Streamline – After a couple of so-so efforts in the Pippin and Bayakoa Stakes, Streamline put it all together and won the Grade 3 Azeri last time out. The hard-knocking mare seems to show up in races like this one all the time and will be a presence in the race once again. I don’t think she’s close to Terra Promessa as long as Terra Promessa gets a clean trip, and I believe Stellar Wind is also much classier than her, but Streamline is still a solid underneath play.
#4 Divine Elegance – It’s been a very nice meet for this battler, winning two out of three races against allowance company. This race is a step up in class, but past the top two, you can definitely make an argument that she fits from a class perspective. I’m not looking for anything special out of her, but she’ll show up with a solid effort.
NONE – Two horses to concentrate on in this one: Stellar Wind and Terra Promessa. Anyone else would be a shock.
#5 Tiger Moth – A solid third-place effort in the Azeri last time out gives these connections some hope, but the waters are much deeper today. Also, if Terra Promessa gets a clean trip, can any of the Azeri runners do much damage in here? Most likely not.
#2 Durango – It’s tough to see her matching up well with any of the five horses she’s running against in this spot. She’s winless in three starts on the meet and will no doubt make it four on Friday.
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