Race Previews

Clement L. Hirsch Preview: Stellar Wind Seeks Three in a Row

Zoe Metz Photography

It’ll be Stellar Wind vs. Vale Dori, Round III, when the 47th running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes is presented on Sunday at Del Mar.

Stellar Wind and Vale Dori were never more than a 1/2-length apart while running 1-2 for the distance of the Grade 1 Beholder Mile on June 3 at Santa Anita and traded the lead twice in the stretch. Stellar Wind, trained by John Sadler and ridden by Victor Espinoza, surged in the final 50 yards and held off the Bob Baffert-trained Vale Dori and Rafael Bejarano by a neck. They also squared off in the Grade 1 Zenyatta last October at Santa Anita, when Stellar Wind edged Beholder by a neck, with Vale Dori another 11 3/4 lengths back in third.

Their most recent encounter was in a race renamed this year for Beholder, the champion mare that Stellar Wind upset in the 2016 Clement L. Hirsch.

“They’re both really good horses and they run well every time, so we’re expecting another war,” Sadler said. “We’re expecting to stay close to (Vale Dori), and Stellar Wind has been tough in tight finishes.”

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Stellar Wind, a 5-year-old daughter of Curlin, has nine wins from 14 career starts and earnings of more than $2 million for Hronis Racing. The Beholder Mile was her second Grade 1 victory in as many 2017 starts, coming on the heels of an April score in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park.

Vale Dori, a 5-year-old Argentine-bred, has nine wins in 15 career starts and earnings of over $1 million for Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum. She had won six straight stakes, five of them graded, before the Beholder Mile.

Of the four other entrants: Autumn Flower has been graded stakes-placed in three of her last five starts, all of them losses to Vale Dori; Faithfully comes in off of a victory in the $70,000 Santa Lucia on June 4 at Santa Anita; and Motown Lady and Shenandoah Queen are stepping up from the allowance level.

The 1 1/16-mile race is a “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series qualifier for the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Del Mar on Friday, November 3.

Top Choice

#3 Stellar Wind – Two straight Grade 1 wins to kick off the year, so why not make it three-for-three here? There really isn’t any horse in California that can beat her, expect for perhaps Songbird, but Songbird was shipped east to run this year. At 1 mile last time, Vale Dori nearly defeated Stellar Wind, but I think that the distance getting longer should benefit Stellar Wind. She defeated the great Beholder in this race last year, and I believe that she will make it two straight wins in this race.

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#2 Vale Dori – Winner of six races in a row before running into Stellar Wind last time out, she fought hard in that race, but was still beaten by a neck. At 1 mile, it gave her a better chance of beating Stellar Wind, but as the distances get longer, can she turn the tables? Bob Baffert has this horse training very sharply, though, so maybe she can improve one more jump and make it interesting.

Exotic Plays

#6 Faithfully – Trained by Bob Baffert, she won a $70,000 stakes last time out at Santa Anita. There’s very little chance that she can win the race, but if one of the top horses don’t fire, then she could get into the exacta at a price. That likely won’t happen, but as we’ve seen each of the past two weekends, that’s why they run the races.

Party Crashers

None – It’s Vale Dori or Stellar Wind here. Anyone else would be a major shock.

Throw Outs

#4 Autumn Flower – She has been beaten five straight times by Vale Dori. That’s what is called a trend.

#1 Motown Lady – A winner last time out in an allowance race, this will be a major step up for her today. Stellar Wind and Vale Dori seems to be at the top of their games.

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