Hronis Racing LLC’s Stellar Wind just got the neck victory over Vale Dori in Saturday’s $368,000 Beholder Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park after a stretch-long duel with that rival.
The eight-furlong contest initially drew five runners, but whittled down to only three with the scratches of Faithfully and Show Stealer.
Stellar Wind exited the gate the 1-2 favorite, but didn’t have an easy time of it. Vale Dori set the pace through splits of :24.12, :47.64 and 1:11.36 while jockey Victor Espinoza positioned Stellar Wind just to her outside. Champion sprinter Finest City tracked in third, but was never really in the race.
Stellar Wind gained a slight advantage in the lane, but Vale Dori fought back to her inside. The pair continued to duke it out until Stellar Wind inched away in the final yards to stop the clock in 1:36.14 over the fast main track. Finest City crossed under the wire another 4 3/4 lengths behind the top two.
Stellar Wind finished second in this race last year when it was called the Vanity Mile. The winner on that occasion was Stellar Wind’s rival Beholder, for whom the race was renamed.
Following this contest 12 months ago, Stellar Wind got the best of Beholder in their next two meetings, the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar and the Zenyatta Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park. However, the chestnut daughter of Curlin was unable to keep pace when champions Beholder and Songbird threw it down in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), winding up fourth on the wire behind the pair in her 2016 finale.
Stellar Wind, a champion in her own right when honored with an Eclipse Award in 2015 as top sophomore filly, made her five-year-old debut in the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at Oaklawn Park last out on April 14. The John Sadler trainee scored by 1 1/4 lengths, and improved her record to read 14-9-2-1, $2,053,200, with the Beholder Mile now added to her resume.
Bred in Virginia by Keswick Stables and Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC, Stellar Wind is out of the Malibu Moon mare Evening Star. Her second dam is the Northern Fashion mare Sequins, from whom is descended Grade 1 winners Mor Spirit and Great Hunter. This female family also includes multiple Grade 1 queen Love Sign.
BEHOLDER MILE QUOTES
Victor Espinoza, jockey Stellar Wind, winner
“I wanted to let them go but they slowed down pretty good into the first turn. I thought ‘we can’t do that.’ I didn’t want to send her too much, but I didn’t want to just sit with her. The other two broke in front of me so I thought I could follow them. (Jockey) Mike (Smith) took a hold of his horse (Finest City) going into the first turn so I wanted to find an opening and just let her run. I let her go and just put her right next to Vale Dori.
“I wasn’t worried. I had confidence in her. She’s always like that in the stretch. She won’t do much on her own. She’s amazing, she’s an incredible mare, but I have to do my job. She always wins by enough. I have to encourage her to go forward. She’s been like that from the first day I rode her.
“I was mostly focused on my own horse, making sure she was doing it nice and easy.
“She has so much power that it’s hard for any other horse to beat her when it comes to head and head down the lane.”
Rafael Bejarano, jockey Vale Dori, second
“I’m very happy with her race. We got beat by a great horse. My horse finished strong. When Victor (Espinoza) moved like he did, it put the pressure on us.”
John Sadler, trainer Stellar Wind, winner
“She’s been training great. She’s even stronger than she was last year at this point in the year so we’re really excited. We were ready to go.
“We knew Victor would be aware…was he was right on top of them and how fast were they going. It was his call.
“We respect everybody in here. This is a very good group. This is a really high-quality group.
“She’s so tough. She doesn’t lose photos. This was closer than I thought it was going to be but that other mare (Vale Dori) is really a top mare now. We’re thrilled.
“Victor said Mike (Smith aboard Finest City) out-broke him a little bit and he didn’t want Vale Dori to get away with an easy lead.
“This might be a little short for her, a mile, now that she’s an older mare. She might be more comfortable at 1 1/16 miles, and is very comfortable at 1 1/8 miles. This was a little bit short but she ran great.
“We’ll probably look at the (July 30) Clement Hirsch (G1) next at Del Mar, just like last year.”
Kosta Hronis, co-owner Stellar Wind, winner
“She’s so game, that’s why she wins these races. She’s back. Our whole deal with bringing her back this year was if she was healthy and training well. Victor’s early move here was the key to the race. This reminded me of running against Beholder.
“She just ran lights out. We’re really proud of her.
“John has managed her great.”