Wednesday afternoon, it looked as though the Curlin babies were lining up for their shot at Kentucky Oaks glory. Of nine entrants in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (GIII), three were daughters of Curlin. However, the connections of Curlin’s Fox decided to point her toward the China Doll Stakes instead. Danette also found the grass to be greener; she has been entered in a maiden special weight at Santa Anita tomorrow, trying turf for the first time.
The standard would be borne by just one: Stellar Wind.
Stellar Wind (Evening Star, by Malibu Moon) was bred in Virginia, and made her debut in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Laurel on November 20 of last year. She finished third beaten just 3/4 length by Spotted Heart, who won the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Stakes her next time out. Stellar Wind returned on December 18, stretching to a mile for that start. She finished on top of an exacta of Curlin babies. She was much the best that day: she crossed the wire 8 3/4 lengths ahead of Wasatch, who herself finished another 8 3/4 lengths ahead of third-place Max’s Warrior. Stellar Wind looked sharp, though the question remained of what she beat.
After some time away, she turned up on the worktab at Santa Anita in January. She had been sold privately to Hronis Racing (best known for campaigning Iotapa), and had gone to John Sadler’s barn. Her connections clearly thought highly of her: in addition to nominating her for the Kentucky Oaks, she was also nominated to the Triple Crown. Still, it remained to be seen how she would run against tougher stuff, as she had not yet faced winners.
Stellar Wind made her maiden score in frontrunning style, but her close call on debut came from off the pace after a bad start. Her start in the Santa Ysabel was hardly disastrous, but it was perceptibly slower than the rest of the field. She set into stride well, though. Jockey Victor Espinoza guided her past Achiever’s Legacy, set her beside Rainha da Bateria, and chased along. Stellar Wind was not far off Enchanting Lady’s lead, only about three and a half lengths in early backstretch. There she stayed until the far turn.
Coming through that second turn, Stellar Wind made her move. She began to close up ground, circling outside the field. She quickly drew even with the leaders of the pack, and the field made a line of four turning for home. Enchanting Lady had the rail with Light the City still right on her outside. Glory ran three wide, with Stellar Wind the farthest outside of all.
She was also moving the best of all. Enchanting Lady retreated, and Light the City and Glory did their best to move along. Achiever’s Legacy put in a late run from the back of the pack. None had what Stellar Wind did today. By shallow stretch she had struck the front; come the wire, she was a widening 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Light the City, and 4 1/4 lengths ahead of third-place Glory.
Stellar Wind handled her first start against winners with aplomb. With this victory, she now has fifty Road to the Kentucky Oaks points. This virtually assures her a spot in the starting gate on Oaks day if she is sound and ready. She finished full of run, and should handle the stretch out to the nine furlongs of the Kentucky Oaks well. In addition to Curlin’s stamina, she has plenty under as well: both of her dam’s wins came at 1 1/16 miles, and her second dam Sequins won at 1 1/8 miles. Sequins produced a mare named Im Out First who finished third in the 1998 Sixty Sails Handicap (GIII), making her graded placed at the same nine-furlong distance as the Oaks. There is enough on her catalogue page to suggest her gallop out today was no fluke.
Stellar Wind, welcome to the Kentucky Oaks picture.