© BENOIT PHOTO
In a year with no clear-cut leader in the 3yo filly division, Stellar Wind gave notice that she could be on the verge of seizing the title when she romped to an easy win in the $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes (gr. III) on August 30th at Del Mar.
Earlier this year, the daughter of Curlin won the Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) and Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) before finishing fourth as the favorite in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). She then won the Summertime Oaks (gr. II) at Del Mar before taking a bit of a summer break, with the Torrey Pines representing her first start in more than two months.
With Victor Espinoza in the saddle, the John Sadler-trained filly flashed excellent speed from the start (a departure from her usual late-running style), closing tracking fractions of :23.02 and :46.83 before seizing command through six furlongs in 1:11.35. After entering the homestretch with a two-length lead, she drew off under urging to win by 4 1/4 lengths in the time of 1:36.43 for a mile.
According to the race recap on the Del Mar website, the change in running style was a planned decision on Victor Espinoza’s part: “She’s classy; she showed that. And I changed her style a little bit today. I wanted to keep my position going into that first turn, so I moved her up with the speed. And she was comfortable there. So I said: ‘OK, let’s just keep doing this.’ She responded well and won like we hoped she would.”
With four graded stakes wins under her belt, Stellar Wind has positioned herself to make a strong late-season bid to win the Eclipse award as champion 3yo filly. Other leading contenders include the turf star Lady Eli, who is currently dealing with laminitis and is not expected to race again this year; Lovely Maria, who won the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) before failing to hit the board in her two most recent starts; Curalina, who won the Acorn Stakes (gr. I) and Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) before finishing third in the Alabama Stakes (gr. I); and I’m a Chatterbox, a two-time graded stakes winner that has hit the board in three straight grade Is without winning.
According to trainer John Sadler, Stellar Wind’s agenda for the rest of the season could include a start in the Zenyatta Stakes (gr. I) against older fillies and mares on September 26th. “We’re happy. I came with the idea of having one race down here so she’ll have a big fall.” Sadler was quoted as saying in the race recap. “We’ve got some big races ahead this fall, probably one prep before the Breeders’ Cup. It could be the Zenyatta at Santa Anita. But this is a nice stepping off point. If we go east, we’ll stay east. We’ll keep a check on the older mares (with a wink toward Beholder’s barn), look at the scoreboard and see what’s up. She’s won four graded stakes this year and is undefeated in California, so we’re really happy with her.”
Owned by Hronis Racing, Stellar Wind has compiled a record of five wins and one third from seven starts, with earnings of $553,200.