A champion at three and a two-time conqueror of Beholder in four tries last year, Stellar Wind will look to get her 2017 campaign off on the right foot when she faces five others in Friday’s $600,000 Apple Blossom H. (G1) at Oaklawn Park.
Trained by John Sadler, the Curlin mare figures to be an overwhelming favorite in the 1 1/16-mile event, which marks her first start since a dull fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) last fall.
“We gave her a vacation after the Breeders’ Cup, and with Southern California having such a wet January and February — we were going to be pressed to have her ready for the Santa Margarita (G1),” Sadler said. “The Apple Blossom is such a classic and prestigious race too.”
Nearly four lengths behind Beholder in the Breeders’ Cup, Stellar Wind had beaten that now-retired, four-time champion in both the Zenyatta (G1) and Clement L. Hirsch (G1) in her previous two starts. The Hirsch was at Del Mar, the site of this year’s Distaff and where Stellar Wind is undefeated in two attempts.
This marks Stellar Wind’s first start at Oaklawn, and all five of her rivals have winning form over the track. On paper, her primary foes are Terra Promessa and Streamline. The speedy Terra Promessa was taken out of her game in last month’s Azeri as jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. attempted to rate the four-year-old, also by Curlin. Brother Jose Ortiz, who rode the filly to victory in the $125,000 Pippin in January, re-takes the reins for the Apple Blossom.
The beneficiary of Terra Promessa’s off day in the Azeri was the Illinois-bred Streamline, who won by a length after finishing a distant second to that rival in both the Pippin and Bayakoa (G3). The five-year-old was second in the 2016 Apple Blossom to Forever Unbridled as a 19-1 longshot.
The field is rounded out by Durango, Divine Elegance, and Tiger Moth, none of whom have won a stakes.