what a difference three years makes.

At this time three years ago, Beholder was already a champion, and on the march toward her second Eclipse Award.  She was already a Breeders’ Cup winner, already a multiple Grade I winner.  The 2013 Zenyatta Stakes (GI) was her first victory over older mares, and prepared Beholder to defeat two-time Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Royal Delta in her next start.

When Beholder won her first Zenyatta Stakes, Stellar Wind (Evening Star, by Malibu Moon) was just a yearling.

The daughter of Curlin had just gone through the ring at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga the month before.  Palace Malice had already won the Belmont Stakes, becoming Curlin’s first classic winner, but he had not caught the same kind of fire as a sire as he did in the years between.  Stellar Wind sold for $40,000 at the Spa: the lowest-priced yearling to change hands, and the only five-figure purchase at the sale.  She drew the lowest final bid of anyone, including the RNAs.

Beholder’s star kept shining bright.  Though she started just three times at four, one of those starts was a successful defense in the Zenyatta.  At five, she was even better.  Beholder was undefeated in five starts last year.  She won a pair of Grade I races against fillies and mares: her first victory in the Clement L. Hirsch, and her third in the Zenyatta.  Between those two starts, she manhandled open company in the Grade I Pacific Classic.

As compared to Beholder, Stellar Wind’s star took at bit longer to rise.

Stellar Wind started just twice at age two, breaking her maiden second out at Laurel over fellow Curlin baby Wasatch.  At three, she bloomed.  She asserted herself in the Santa Ysabel, and then followed in Beholder’s hoofprints by winning the Santa Anita Oaks.  Though beaten in the Kentucky Oaks, she regrouped in the Summertime Oaks, then mirrored Beholder again by winning the Torrey Pines.  Though Stellar Wind did not match Beholder again by winning the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at age three, she gave Stopchargingmaria a serious challenge, and finished second beaten just a neck.

Their paths crossed off the racetrack this past January.  Their names were both called at the Eclipse Awards: Beholder as champion older mare, Stellar Wind as champion three-year-old filly.

Their paths crossed for the first time on the racetrack in the Vanity Mile (GI) this June.

Beholder already had a prep under her, an easy victory in the Adoration (GIII).  For Stellar Wind, it was her first start since her Breeders’ Cup run.  As expected, Beholder won, though Stellar Wind kept on well…the sort of race from which she could progress and come back stronger.

Stellar Wind did come back stronger next out.  Beholder took the early lead, but Stellar Wind never let her get far away.  Down the stretch, it was a two-horse race.  Beholder stuck her head in front, but Stellar Wind had more.  She came back on Beholder, and crossed the wire half a length in front.  She denied Beholder a repeat in the Clement Hirsch.

In the meantime, Beholder returned to defend her Pacific Classic title.  She could not quite repeat.  California Chrome reasserted himself as the best dirt horse in the world; Beholder came home second, well clear of Dortmund.

Stellar Wind, instead, trained from the Clement Hirsch to the Zenyatta without a race in between.

With no other early speed in the Zenyatta this year, it looked like Beholder would carve out the fractions…giving outside-drawn Stellar Wind the possibility to stalk on the outside and get the same kind of trip she did in the Clement Hirsch.

It happened again.  Stellar Wind ran her best again.  She turned the tables on Beholder…again.

Earlier this year, so many laughed when anyone called Beholder versus Stellar Wind a clash of champions.  Now, it’s Stellar Wind – 2, Beholder – 1.  Mentioning Stellar Wind in the same breath as Beholder no longer seems silly.

Beholder deserves reverence, but so does Stellar Wind.

2 thoughts on “what a difference three years makes.

  1. I thought Stellar Wind would improve because she had so much attention from Victor Espinoza. He spends time with horses as if he had all the time in the world. He seems to give them confidence, they run their best, he never takes risks with their safety, and it is beautiful to watch. I may be reading too much into it, because I am no expert, but look at the results!!! (Have seen him close up at Santa Anita). It’s not that Beholder failed, it’s that she came up against a magical combination of Victor + a horse who knows him!!! Just sad he could not have ridden Frosted!!! Love Frosted!!!

    • i agree…Beholder didn’t fail, but Stellar Wind is the real deal. and, Victor Espinoza has done an excellent job with her. he knows her, knows how to ride her, and they’ve been having a great season!

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