04/04/2015 6:02PM

Stellar Wind scores big win in Santa Anita Oaks

Benoit & Associates
Stellar Wind, with Victor Espinoza aboard, wins the Santa Anita Oaks by 2 3/4 lengths Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. – By the time Stellar Wind pulled away from six rivals in early stretch of Saturday’s $400,500 Santa Anita Oaks, jockey Victor Espinoza was confident he had the race won. Then, he went to work.

Instead of easing Stellar Wind through the final furlong of the Grade 1 race at 1 1/16 miles, Espinoza urged Stellar Wind to the finish, thinking a stronger effort would help the filly’s chances in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 1.

Espinoza wanted Stellar Wind to run to the wire, a performance different from her effort in the Grade 2 Santa Ysabel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 28 when she was not aggressively ridden to the finish and won by 2 3/4 lengths.

“I had to ride her a bit,” he said. “I want to get her ready for the [Kentucky] Oaks.”

The style of Stellar Wind’s two wins suggests she deserves to be on the short list of candidates for the Kentucky Oaks and perhaps favored.

Stellar Wind won the Santa Anita Oaks by 4 1/4 lengths over Luminance, who was on or near the lead early and held second. Sent off favored, Stellar Wind ($4.40) was timed in 1:43.26.

Espinoza had an ideal trip on Stellar Wind. She was last of seven early, well behind a solid pace of 22.91 and 46.34 seconds set by Glory and then Luminance. Espinoza guided Stellar Wind three wide at the end of the backstretch to reach contention and two wide on the turn before running past Luminance.

“I thought it was good that there was a little bit of speed in front of her,” Espinoza said. “I was able to move her outside at the half-mile pole. I didn’t want to get her stopped behind horses.”

Luminance finished three lengths in front of Wild at Heart. Luminance and Wild at Heart were first and second in an optional claimer at a mile Feb. 28. The Santa Anita Oaks was the stakes debut for both fillies.

Curlin’s Fox finished fourth, followed by Singing Kitty and Glory. Light the City was pulled up in early stretch and was reported to be exhausted, according to track stewards. She was walked back to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s stable.

Stellar Wind races for Hronis Racing and trainer John Sadler. Stellar Wind was the third consecutive win on Saturday’s card for Sadler, preceded by wins in allowance races or optional claimers by Kristo and Zinvor.

Stellar Wind, by Curlin, beat maidens in her second start at Laurel in mid-December and was acquired privately and shipped to California after that race.  In her brief career, Stellar Wind has won 3 of 4 starts and earned $327,200.