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ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 1, 2016)—In what shaped up as the rubber match in a best out of three series, 4-year-old filly Stellar Wind got the nod Saturday at Santa Anita, taking the Grade I, $300,000 Zenyatta Stakes by a neck while getting 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.80. With Victor Espinoza garnering his third Grade I stakes victory on the day, trainer John Sadler has the likely favorite in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita on Nov. 4.

Breaking from post position two in a field of five fillies and mares three and up, Beholder’s options appeared limited and thus, Gary Stevens opted to send three-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder, who was immediately engaged by Tara’s Tango and Stellar Wind, with the three of them separated by roughly three quarters of length until the 3 ½ furlong pole. At that point, it developed into a match race between the top two, who finished some 11 ¾ lengths clear of the third place finisher.

“I worked harder in the last race, the Clement Hirsch (taken by Stellar Wind by a half length over Beholder at Del Mar on July 30), than I did today,” said Espinoza. “It’s always good to be next to Beholder, next to the queen…To be able to pull away the last eighth, it’s not easy! It’s hard, but Stellar Wind is an incredible mare and she will continue to be good.”

Last year’s Eclipse Champion 3-year-old Filly, Stellar Wind, who is owned by Hronis Racing, LLC, had been idle since beating Beholder in the Grade I Hirsch and was off at odds of 2-1 and paid $6.00, $2.20 and $2.10.

A Kentucky-bred daughter of Curlin, she picked up her seventh win from 11 starts and with the winner’s share of $180,000, she increased her earnings to $1,353,200.

“We thought she’d be a better 4-year-old,” said Sadler. “These mares peak at four and she’s a bigger, stronger horse this year. She’s relatively fresh and we get to go into the Breeders’ Cup off of three starts. We’re looking forward to it.

Beholder, who was seeking a record fourth win in the Zenyatta, has now suffered three consecutive defeats, her most recent a second place finish behind superstar California Chrome in the Grade I Pacific Classic on Aug. 20. The 2-5 favorite, she paid $2.10 and $2.10.

“Nothing really went wrong, except I was on the lead and a sitting duck again,” said Stevens. “No pace except for me, and realistic fractions. I flat got out-run. I have no excuses, carrying equal weight. Hat’s off to the winner, and hat’s off to my mare. She shows up every day. Unfortunately, three losses in a row and it’s tough for a champion…Hopefully we can bounce back and get some pace in the Breeders’ Cup.”

As for Mandella, who’s trained Beholder from day-one, he took a straight forward tack following the race. “We’ll go to the Distaff from here. My mare didn’t look like she ever gave up and those two finished well clear of the rest of them. We didn’t really intend to go to the lead, but with a five-horse field, what are you gonna do? Not to make excuses, but yes, I think a full field will help us next time.”

Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Argentine-bred Vale Dori was third and paid $2.40 to show.

Fractions on the race were 23.55, 46.23, 1:09.75 and 1:35.06.

As a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge event, Stellar Wind has earned a fees-paid berth into the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 4.


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