07/30/2017 10:06PM

Stellar Wind notches third straight Grade 1 in Clement Hirsch repeat

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Benoit & Associates
Stellar Wind is now a perfect 3 for 3 at Del Mar with Sunday's repeat victory in the Clement Hirsch Stakes.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Both trainer John Sadler and co-owner Kosta Hronis say watching Stellar Wind is difficult because the expectations are so high. Fortunately for Sadler and Hronis, Stellar Wind keeps meeting and even exceeding them.

Stellar Wind continued her outstanding 2017 form on Sunday at Del Mar by out-dueling Vale Dori in a virtual match race in the Grade 1, $300,000 Clement Hirsch Stakes, the championship race of the meet for older females. The victory was the second straight in the Hirsch for Stellar Wind, who won it last year over Beholder, and it kept her record this year at a perfect 3 for 3, all in Grade 1 races.

Stellar Wind has now won six Grade 1 races during her career, and has won five of her last six starts, her lone loss in that streak when she stumbled at the start of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and finished fourth. Stellar Wind, 5, is a daughter of Curlin. The $180,000 first prize increased her career earnings to $2,233,200.

Although she won an Eclipse Award two years ago at age 3, Stellar Wind at times has been perceived as racing in the shadow of popular runners like Beholder and then Songbird on this circuit during her career, but she has fashioned a glittery resume in her own right, and she is on course for a championship bid in this year’s Distaff, which will be run Nov. 3 at Del Mar, where Stellar Wind is now perfect in three starts. The Hirsch was a "Win and You're In" race toward the Distaff.

“She stuck her nose out and won like she usually does,” Sadler said.

For the second straight year, the Hirsch happened to fall on Sadler’s birthday.

“Just what I wanted,” said Sadler, who turned 61 Sunday.

Only five went to the post for the Hirsch after the scratch of Shenandoah Queen, who is entered back in an allowance race on Wednesday.

Stellar Wind was favored at 1-2, with Vale Dori next at 2-1.

They hooked up right from the start in a virtual re-run of their prior race, the Beholder Mile. Vale Dori, drawn inside of Stellar Wind, held a slight advantage through comfortable fractions of 23.81 seconds for the quarter, 48.46 for the half, and 1:13.39 for six furlongs.

Stellar Wind moved alongside Vale Dori heading into the lane, stuck her head in front, and narrowly held the advantage to the wire, winning by a neck in 1:43.92 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track.

Faithfully was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third, then came Motown Lady and Autumn Flower, the runners finishing in the order in which they were bet. Stellar Wind had so much money bet to show on her that she caused a minus pool of $76,676.57.

“I was right next to the other filly, pretty much cruising along,” winning rider Victor Espinoza said. “She always comes through. She doesn’t like to win by much. She’s older, more mature, more professional. Before, I had to get after her. Now, she does it on her own.”

It was a heady eight days for Espinoza, Sadler, and owners Hronis and his brother, Pete, who on July 22 won the San Diego Handicap with Accelerate, defeating Arrogate. The run of good fortune will continue this coming week for Espinoza, for he is to be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame on Friday in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

“Now that it’s getting closer, I’m getting a little more excited,” Espinoza said.