Stellar Wind (Evening Star, by Malibu Moon) punched her ticket to the Kentucky Oaks with a dominant win in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (GIII) on February 28.
Today, she marked herself a shooting star on the Oaks trail.
After winning the Santa Ysabel, Stellar Wind took the next step down the California segment of the Kentucky Oaks trail in the Santa Anita Oaks (GI). The John Sadler trainee had won the Santa Ysabel impressively; a sweeping move carried her around the pack and past Light the City. Still, questions remained. She did not beat the stiffest of fields out at Laurel, and there is always a chance that she could regress after running such a big race in the Santa Ysabel.
Stellar Wind broke less than sharply. She bobbled just a bit, but rider Victor Espinoza did not panic: his filly had been a step slow last out, too. He let her follow along at the back of the pack, though it was a bit less compact than that in the Santa Ysabel last time. She chased just outside and behind Light the City. Glory and Luminance set a sharp early pace for a 1 1/16 mile race: the quarter in 22:91, the half in 46.34. Approaching the far turn, the field began to draw closer together.
Coming through the far turn, Espinoza shook Stellar Wind’s reins. She responded, advancing from her position in the rear. Blink, and you missed Stellar Wind get dead aim on the lead. Blink again, and you missed her pulling even with Luminance. After the turn for home Luminance tried to stay along with Stellar Wind. She made a game effort, but Stellar Wind had more run. First she edged ahead of Luminance; past the furlong pole, her next gear engaged. Stellar Wind crossed the wire 5 1/4 lengths ahead of Luminance, leaving no question that the Virginia-bred is the best three-year-old filly in the west.
This win makes Stellar Wind Curlin’s second North American Grade I stakes winner, after Palace Malice. Assuming Stellar Wind stays healthy and ends up in the Kentucky Oaks starting gate, she will be the second daughter of Curlin to start in the Oaks. No one from his first crop ran, but Please Explain started there last year. After a disqualification from the Honeybee and a disappointing Fantasy Stakes run, she was a surprise entrant; she finished a well-beaten tenth as the longest shot on the board. Stellar Wind has a far better chance given her sharp performance during the prep season. It remains to be seen how she will stack up against the horses out east, the likes of I’m a Chatterbox, Lovely Maria, Condo Commando, and Birdatthewire. If Stellar Wind can take her Santa Anita form to Churchill, though, they will have a tough foe come May 1.