DEL MAR, CA – Classy as ever, Stellar Wind outlasted Vale Dori at the wire in Sunday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch.
The race is a Win and You’re In for Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Friday, November 3, here at Del Mar.
Jockey Victor Espinoza and Stellar Wind used very similar tactics to upset Beholder in the 2016 edition. Shadowing the outside of the leader (Vale Dori), Espinoza began to put Stellar Wind to task as they entered into the far turn. Exiting onto the stretch stride-for-stride, Stellar Wind put a nose in front and gamely held off the foe to her inside by a neck, never backing down for a moment from the challenge.
“Once she broke (well), I felt the race was all over,” Espinoza said. “I have so much confidence in her, I knew she’d win. And she showed me to be right again. I had that other horse (Vale Dori) measured. I knew I could win. It was a good race, side-by-side down the stretch, but I was going to be the winner. I had to win it for John (trainer Sadler), it was his birthday. And my horse had plenty left; she still had plenty in the tank.”
Trainer Bob Baffert entered both Vale Dori and Faithfully in an attempt to finally conquer the Hirsch, which is conspicuously absent from the record 121 stakes races that Baffert has taken at Del Mar in the past 26 years. Despite the best efforts of jockeys Mike Smith and Rafael Bejarano, respectively, the favorite Stellar Wind was not to be conquered.
“Just what I wanted for my birthday,” said Sadler. “She ran really well. I was nervous because of the way favorites have fared here, but she’s a good mare. She came through and she stuck her nose out at the end like she usually does. It looked like it was going to set up pretty much like the last race; Vale Dori is the speed. We know we can’t sit off her too far, you’ve got to hook into her and wear her down. We’re really happy.”
Faithfully held on for third, 1 1/2 lengths behind the top two. Motown Lady and Autumn Flower completed the order of finish. Shenandoah Queen was scratched.
The Hronis Racing 5-year-old mare increased her career earnings to $2,233,200 with the $180,000 winner’s share. Her record improved to 15-10-2-1 and she has now won three straight Grade 1s to start 2017 (after the Apple Blossom and the Beholder Mile).
Stellar Wind returned $3 to win, $2.10 to place, and $2.10 to show. Vale Dori brought back $2.60 to place and $2.10 to show, while Faithfully paid $2.40 to show.