June 13, 2024

Stellar Wind, Vale Dori face off in Clement L. Hirsch

Stellar Wind overpowers Vale Dori to her inside to win the Beholder Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, June 3, 2017 © BENOIT PHOTO

Stellar Wind and Vale Dori will run against each other for the third time on Sunday at Del Mar. The duo are part of a six-distaffer field going 1 1/16 miles in the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1).

Thus far, the scorecard reads Stellar Wind – two, Vale Dori – zero.

The pair first met in last September’s Zenyatta Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park. Stellar Wind not only had Vale Dori in third that day, she got her neck in front of multiple champion Beholder on the wire for the win. Of course, Beholder returned one race later and left Stellar Wind well back in fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). Stellar Wind won’t ever have to worry about Beholder again as she retired to the breeding shed after that third Breeders’ Cup triumph.

Stellar Wind, on the other hand, returned this year to capture the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at Oaklawn Park on April 14. Next out on June 3 she took on Vale Dori, who kept her to only a neck victory in the Beholder Mile (G1). That race was formerly known as the Vanity Mile and renamed to honor the star mare who captured it by 1 1/2 lengths over Stellar Wind just a year ago.

Stellar Wind followed the 2016 Vanity Mile with a half-length score over Beholder in this contest, and the five-year-old daughter of Curlin is looking to repeat with regular rider Victor Espinoza aboard for trainer John Sadler.

Vale Dori only came up against Beholder once, in last year’s Zenyatta, and then immediately went on a six-race win streak that was broken when a neck second to Stellar Wind in the Beholder Mile last out. Along the way she collected scores in the Bayakoa Handicap (G2), La Canada Stakes (G2), Santa Maria Stakes (G2), Santa Margarita Stakes (G1) and Adoration Stakes (G3).

The Bayakoa concluded the Bob Baffert trainee’s four-year-old campaign in early December, and she opened 2017 with an easy score in the La Canada. Mike Smith was aboard for both those starts, as well as the Santa Maria, and takes back the mount here.

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

Also entered in the race is Autumn Flower, who has faced Vale Dori in her past five starts. While well-beaten, the Flower Alley mare did manage to pull out thirds at double-digit odds in the Santa Margarita, Santa Maria and La Canada. Another showing could be in the cards for the Dan Hendricks charge. Martin Pedroza has the call.

Faithfully is taking on graded rivals for the first time here. The Baffert pupil just captured her stakes bow in the Santa Lucia Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths on June 4 at Santa Anita Park, and keeps Rafael Bejarano in the irons Sunday.

Sadler also has another entered in the form of Shenandoah Queen. That Henny Hughes mare is making her stakes debut in this spot having crossed under the wire worse than third only once, though she was disqualified to fourth on one of those occasions. Drayden Van Dyke will be in the saddle for the first time on the Kentucky-bred chestnut.

Motown Lady rounds out the Clement L. Hirsch field for trainer Keith Desormeaux and his jockey brother, Kent Desormeaux.

Earlier on Del Mar’s Sunday card, eight California-bred sophomore fillies will sprint seven furlongs in the $150,000 Fleet Treat Stakes.

Trainer Jeff Bonde is taking the blinkers off Miss Sunset as she goes for her fourth stakes victory. The Into Mischief filly already boasts wins in the Generous Portion Stakes, Campanile Stakes and Sweet Life Stakes, all at difference tracks. Mike Smith has the call on the filly.

Among those she’ll be facing is Dreamy Gal, unraced since an 8 1/4-length maiden win last August at Del Mar for trainer Jeff Mullins and jockey Tyler Baze.