Champion Stellar Wind begins her final racing campaign that will hopefully conclude with a second Eclipse Award in Friday’s $ 600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles Friday at Oaklawn. Over, the last 10, the race has produced four champion older mare titles – Close Hatches (2014), Havre de Grace (2011) and Zenyatta (2008 and 2010) and two Horse of the Year titles – Havre de Grace (2011) and Zenyatta (2010).
Probable post time for the Apple Blossom, the ninth of 10 races, is 5:10 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 1:30 p.m.
Stellar Wind has been installed the overwhelming 3-5 program favorite against five scheduled rivals, including multiple Oaklawn stakes winners Terra Promessa and Streamline. Owned by Kosta Hronis and trained by John Sadler, the Southern California-based Stellar Wind captured an Eclipse Award as the country’s top 3-year-old filly of 2015. The 5-year-old daughter of Curlin will be making her first start since a fourth-place finish behind champions Beholder and Songbird in the $ 2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) Nov. 4 at Santa Anita.
“Anything can in a happen in a race, but we’re here with a good horse and she’s in great shape,” Sadler said. “All the things I really can’t control is what I worry about. Everything we’ve done, we’re very happy with.”
Regular rider Victor Espinoza has the mount on Stellar Wind, who is scheduled to break from post 3.
Completing the projected Apple Blossom lineup from the rail out: Terra Promessa, Jose Ortiz to ride, 118 pounds, 8-5 on the morning line; Durango, Ramon Vazquez, 112, 30-1; Divine Elegance, Glenn Corbett, 113, 30-1; Tiger Moth, Ricardo Santana Jr., 113, 15-1; and Streamline, Chris Landeros, 117, 8-1.
Sadler said 2017 will be Stellar Wind’s last year to race before beginning a breeding career. She has compiled a 7-2-1 record from 12 starts and amassed $ 1,453,200 in earnings.
“We wanted to bring her back one more year at 5,” Sadler said. “She was a late-developing filly and got better last year. We think this could be a real good year for her.”
Stonestreet Stables’ Terra Promessa will be looking to rebound from a fifth-place finish in the $ 350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 18, the final major local prep for the Apple Blossom. A 4-year-old daughter of Curlin, Terra Promessa had been 5 for 5 at Oaklawn, including wire-to-wire scores in the $ 125,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 14 and $ 150,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) Feb. 18.
Terra Promessa had traffic trouble in the Azeri, couldn’t make the lead and never found the same rhythmic stride as in the Pippin and Bayakoa.
“That’s who she is,” Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said.
Streamline won the 2015 Pippin and upset Terra Promessa in the Azeri for trainer Brian Williamson.
Tiger Moth closed well to finish third in the Azeri – her graded stakes debut – for high-percentage trainer Brad Cox. She was a one-length winner of a Jan. 22 allowance/optional claimer in her 5-year-old debut.
“It’s about trying to hit the board and get the Grade1-placing,” Cox said. “Obviously with the great purse, if you’re third it’s a great payday. And, she showed she liked the track.”
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