Jockey Mike Smith guides Vale Dori to the winner’s circle after their victory in the Grade II, $ 200,000 Santa Maria Stakes, Saturday, February 11, 2017 at Santa Anita
A pair of Eclipse Award Champions, John Sadler’s Stellar Wind and Ian Kruljac’s Finest City, are set to meet Bob Baffert’s rising superstar Vale Dori in Saturday’s Grade I, $ 400,000 Beholder Mile at Santa Anita.This formidable threesome head a field of five fillies and mares in the race that was formerly run as the Vanity Mile and honors Spendthrift Farms’ four-time Eclipse Champion, Beholder.
A recent Grade I winner in Arkansas, Stellar Wind, voted Champion 3-year-old filly in 2015, will no doubt vie for favoritism with Vale Dori, a winner of six consecutive races, five of them graded.A close second in a seven furlong, Grade I stakes at Churchill Downs on May 6, Finest City, Eclipse Champion Filly & Mare Sprinter last year, will try to stretch her speed as she transitions back to two-turn competition.
STELLAR WIND: Owned by Hronis Racing, LLC, she prompted the early pace and went on to a 1 ¼ length win in the Grade I, 1 1/16 miles Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park April 14, her first start since running fourth to Beholder her in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 4. A 5-year-old mare by Curlin, Stellar Wind was purchased privately after breaking her maiden in her second start at Laurel Park, Md., in December, 2014. A dream purchase, she’s won seven graded stakes, four of them Grade I’s, in 11 starts for Sadler. With regular rider Victor Espinoza aboard, tactics will be key, as “The Big Three” all have similar front-running styles.With an overall mark of 13-8-2-1, Stellar Wind has earnings of $ 1,813,200.
VALE DORI: A Group I winner in her native Argentina, 5-year-old Vale Dori has nonetheless blossomed in Baffert’s care, winning seven of her nine stateside starts.A winner of her last six races, she comes off a facile half length win in the Grade III Adoration Stakes, run over a wet fast track at 1 1/16 miles on May 7. On or near the early lead in all of her wins for Baffert, Vale Dori settled nicely just off the pace in the Adoration, a strategy regular Rafael Bejarano may opt to replicate. Owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, Vale Dori is 14-9-3-1 overall with earnings of $ 994,943.
FINEST CITY: A winner of the Grade I, seven furlong Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint here four starts back on Nov. 5, this 5-year-old Pennsylvania-bred mare by City Zip showed the way two starts back going 1 1/8 miles in the Grade I Santa Margarita Stakes, but was overhauled late to be second, beaten 1 ½ lengths by Vale Dori. With the Beholder Mile a furlong shorter, Finest City’s connections will hope to be able to turn the tables on Baffert’s distaff star. Second, beaten a neck as the 3-2 favorite in the Grade I Humana Distaff going seven furlongs on May 6 at Churchill Downs, Finest City is obviously in top, recent form and it’ll be up to “Big Money” Mike Smith to ration her speed. Owned by Seltzer Thoroughbreds, Finest City is 17-5-6-2 overall with earnings of $ 1,184,394.
THE GRADE I BEHOLDER MILE WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER
Race 8 of 9 Approximate post time 4:30 p.m. PT
1. Vale Dori—Rafael Bejarano–126
2. Stellar Wind—Victor Espinoza—126
3. Show Stealer—Gary Stevens–122
4. Finest City—Mike Smith—122
5. Faithfully—Flavien Prat–122
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