06/03/2017 8:31PM

Stellar Wind outlasts Vale Dori in Beholder Mile

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Benoit & Associates
Vicgtor Espinoza and Stellar Wind edge Vale Dori to win the Beholder Mile on Saturday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The duel lived up to expectation.

Stellar Wind, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2015, won Saturday’s Grade 1 Beholder Mile against Vale Dori in what developed as a de facto match race between two of the top older females in southern California.

They were never separated by more than a half-length and had a neck between them at the finish. Finest City, the champion female sprinter of 2016, finished third in the field of three, beaten five lengths. A 4-1 shot, Finest City was never a threat to the first two.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Stellar Wind ($3) ran a mile in 1:36.14 for her eighth stakes win and fifth Grade 1 for owners Pete and Kosta Hronis and trainer John Sadler. The duel left Sadler in admiration of the runner-up.

“The other mare is a tough mare,” Sadler said. “We’re thrilled.”

Sadler credited Espinoza for a change in tactics in the first turn as being a key to victory. Finest City was expected to race close to the front with Vale Dori, but when that failed to develop Espinoza urged Stellar Wind into a stalking position.

“I didn’t want to send and didn’t want to sit on her,” Espinoza said. “The inside horse took a steady hold and I thought, 'This is not good.' ”

Vale Dori set moderate fractions of 24.12 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 47.64 for a half-mile, with Stellar Wind always within a half-length. On the turn, Stellar Wind moved closer when Espinoza gave her a crack of his whip.

“I wasn’t concerned with her,” Espinoza said. “She’s always like that. She doesn’t do a lot on her own. She’s waiting for me to encourage her to go forward. She wins by enough and not by five.”

Stellar Wind led by a head with a furlong remaining and was tested to the finish.

By Curlin, Stellar Wind is unbeaten in two starts this year, having won the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park in April.

Vale Dori had won six previous starts, including a span of five graded stakes wins since early December. The span of wins was highlighted by a victory in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational in March.

“That was a true Grade 1 race for three horses,” said Bob Baffert, who trains Vale Dori.

“She ran great. Stellar Wind is too much.”

The race had five entrants, but Faithfully and Show Stealer were scratched in favor of Sunday’s Santa Lucia Stakes.

The second-place finish by Vale Dori in the Beholder Mile was her first loss since she finished third behind Stellar Wind and Beholder in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes here last October. Beholder, the four-time champion, later won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and was named champion older female of 2016.

The Beholder Mile was previously known as the Vanity Mile and was renamed in honor of the retired champion last winter.

Stellar Wind has won 9 of 14 starts and has earned $2,053,200. She is likely to make her next start at Del Mar, in the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Stakes on July 30, a race she won last year.