Oaklawn Park’s Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) has been an ideal springboard for West Coast-based fillies and mares for some time—think two-time winner Zenyatta and three-time winner Azeri. The 2017 running of the 1 1/16-mile race April 14 in Hot Springs, Ark., puts another California-based champion in the spotlight as Stellar Wind is among six entered for the $600,000 race.
Hronis Racing’s daughter of Curlin makes her 5-year-old bow in the Apple Blossom and will carry top weight of 122 pounds, four more than Stonestreet Stables’ homebred Terra Promessa, a five-time winner at Oaklawn, and five more than Nancy Vanier and Cartwright Thoroughbreds’ Streamline, upset winner of the Azeri Stakes (G2), Oaklawn’s prep for the Apple Blossom.
Stellar Wind, who will have regular rider Victor Espinoza in the irons, was champion 3-year-old filly of 2015 and topped champion Beholder twice in their four meetings last year. Last year Stellar Wind fell just 1 1/2 lengths shy of Beholder in the Vanity Mile Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita before topping Beholder in back to back efforts at the Apple Blossom distance in grade 1 stakes in Southern California. Stellar Wind closed out the year with a fourth in the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1), won by Beholder.
For Stellar Wind's first start since her Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup race, trainer John Sadler has been able to put in a steady string of works in the chestnut mare, her last coming April 7 at Santa Anita where she went five furlongs in 1:00 3/5. Out of the Malibu Moon mare Evening Star, Stellar Wind makes her first foray out of Southern California since running second in the 2015 Distaff at Keeneland.
"We gave her a vacation after the Breeders' Cup, and with Southern California having such a wet January and February, we were going to be pressed to have her ready for the Santa Margarita," Sadler said. "The Apple Blossom is such a classic and prestigious race."
Terra Promessa, also by Curlin, and out of the Yes It's True mare Missile Bay, counters Stellar Wind’s Oaklawn debut by having won three graded stakes over the track. Last year she swept the grade 3 stakes for 3-year-old fillies—the Honeybee and Fantasy stakes—and this year won the listed Pippin Stakes and grade 3 Bayakoa Stakes for trainer Steve Asmussen. Traffic issues in the seven-horse Azeri contest may have compromised her from doing her best as she finished fifth at 3-10 under Irad Ortiz Jr. Ortiz’s brother, Jose, will ride in the Apple Blossom.
Streamline has a 2-2-3 career mark in seven starts at Oaklawn and made her biggest splash last time out with her one-length score in the Azeri at 12-1 after finishing behind Terra Promessa in the Bayakoa and Pippin.
Vanier is the widow of longtime top trainer Harvey Vanier, who trained top runners such as Play Fellow and Western Playboy prior to his death in 2013. Streamline (Straight Line —Love Handles, by Sahm) is a fifth-generation product of the Vaniers' breeding program. A $15,000 purchase, Streamline’s sire, by Boundary, won the 2004 Iroquois Stakes (G3) and the 2005 Ack Ack Handicap (G3) for Nancy Vanier and William Cartwright.
A year ago Streamline was second in the Apple Blossom behind Forever Unbridled.