May 26, 2024

Stellar Wind guts out neck score over Vale Dori in Clement L. Hirsch

Del Mar opens Wednesday (c) Cecilia Gustavsson/Horsephotos.com

The $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar on Sunday was billed as match race between champion Stellar Wind and multiple Grade/Group 1 heroine Vale Dori, and that is exactly what it turned out to be.

The duo met up last out in the Beholder Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park, and Stellar Wind had to fight for the neck score on that occasion.

The Clement L. Hirsch was a near duplicate of that contest, as Vale Dori once again took the lead when the gates opened, setting splits of :23.81, :48.46 and 1:13.39 with Stellar Wind drafting just to her outside. As the pair neared the turn, Stellar Wind moved up to run in tandem with her rival.

Those two battled it out in the lane, with Vale Dori stubbornly refusing to yield. Stellar Wind had to work for every inch but the chestnut daughter of Curlin managed to get her neck in front on the line and finish 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.92 with regular rider Victor Espinoza aboard.

Stellar Wind paid $3 for the win as the 1-2 favorite while Vale Dori was the second choice at 2-1. Faithfully was game in defeat, only 1 1/2 lengths behind in third, while Motown Lady and Autumn Flower completed the order under the wire.

Trained by John Sadler and campaigned by Kosta and Pete Hronis of Hronis Racing, Stellar Wind improved her record to read 15-10-2-1, $2,233,200. She’s now captured three Grade 1s in a row, having begun her five-year-old season with a 1 1/4-length victory in the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at Oaklawn Park.

That was the Stellar Wind’s first start since running fourth behind former nemesis Beholder and Songbird in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). While Beholder has been retired to the breeding shed, Stellar Wind has found a new rival in Vale Dori on the West Coast while back East Songbird is still going strong.

All three are expected to meet up in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Del Mar on November 3.

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.

CLEMENT L. HIRSCH QUOTES

John Sadler, trainer Stellar Wind, winner

“Just what I wanted for my birthday. 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.

“No plans (for a next start) now. We’ll start looking tomorrow. But for now, we’re really happy.”

Victor Espinoza, jockey Stellar Wind, winner

“Once she broke (well), I felt the race was all over. 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 (trainer) John (Sadler). It was his birthday. And my horse had plenty left; she still had plenty in the tank.”

Mike Smith, jockey Vale Dori, second

“She ran great. She won; she just didn’t finish first. She really tried today and I’m proud of her.”

Rafael Bejarano, jockey Faithfully, third

“No excuses. Those two in front of us are good.”

Kent Desormeaux, jockey Motown Lady, fourth

“She was very keen early to go. But then at the end she stayed on. I think there may be better to come with her.”