Virginia-Bred Stellar Wind Captures Grade I Apple Blossom At Oaklawn

The following article appeared in April 14th.

Stellar Wind‘s résumé leading up to her 5-year-old season was already, well, stellar.

She earned a championship, defeated four-time champion Beholder twice, and won six graded stakes overall—but she added a line to her accomplishments April 14 at Oaklawn Park.

Since joining trainer John Sadler after breaking her maiden at Laurel Park during her 2-year-old year, Hronis Racing’s daughter of Curlin   has won all of her races at home on Southern California soil.

But in the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) Friday, Stellar Wind shipped out of town and won for the first time. Her two previous stakes starts outside of California—albeit with troubled trips on the racetrack—resulted in a fourth-place finish in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) and a neck second in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), both in 2015.

Stellar Wind came on strong at the end to win her ’17 debut in the Grade I Apple Blossom. Picture from Coady Photography.

Under the guidance of regular jockey Victor Espinoza, Stellar Wind got to the rail from post 3 as Terra Promessa shot to the lead from the inside post in the 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom. In the final turn, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2015 moved alongside the frontrunner and put her away in the stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths. She finished off the distance in 1:42.75.

“I was happy she had an eye on (Terra Promessa),” Sadler said. “I didn’t want that horse to get too easy a lead. So he was stalking her from the inside, then he came to the outside. I knew as long as Victor had an eye on (Terra Promessa), we’d be in good shape. She’s got a nice kick and a lot of ability to go the distance.”

Stellar Wind in the Oaklawn Park backstretch the week of the Apple Blossom. Picture from Coady Photography.

Terra Promessa, another daughter of Curlin, cruised easily on the lead early and set fractions of :23.88, :48.22, and 1:12.59 through six furlongs. Fourth entering the first turn, Stellar Wind improved her position on the rail to move into a tracking position in third on the backstretch, moved ahead of Durango, and engaged Terra Promessa in the final bend.

“In the first turn, I thought my trip was not so good, because I got stuck in behind the leaders on the inside,” Espinoza said. “I thought, ‘OK, if the outside horse doesn’t get tired at the end, I might have some trouble.’ But it worked out well, because the other one couldn’t keep up with the leader. I had a little time to move out and just move forward to attack the one on the lead.”

Although Terra Promessa momentarily appeared to be game for a stretch duel, she was no match for Stellar Wind late, as the 2-5 favorite put a head in front with a furlong to run and cruised to the wire as Espinoza only showed the mare the whip.

“She ran a good race,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “I mean, she really did. Hat’s off to a champion who beat her, but Terra Promessa definitely ran a good race. A nice Curlin exacta.”

Streamline, who won the Azeri (G2) last-time out over Terra Promessa, came in 3 1/4 lengths back in third, followed by Tiger Moth, Divine Elegance, and Durango, to complete the order of finish.

With her eighth win from 13 starts, Stellar Wind, who was bred in Virginia by  Keswick Stables and Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, now has more than $1.8 million in earnings. Sadler said after the race that a start in the June 3 Beholder Mile (G1) back home at Santa Anita Park could be next for the mare.

“She wanted another year under her belt. She wanted to race,” said owner Kosta Hronis. “She’s in great shape, so we thought we’d keep her on the track at least another year. We’re happy with her comeback race. (We’re) just really proud of her.”