Just like her 2016 victories over Beholder in the Clement L. Hirsch (G1) and Zenyatta (G1) stakes, champion Stellar Wind never let the frontrunning Vale Dori get away in the Beholder Mile, a three-mare race that also included Eclipse Award-winning female sprinter Finest City.
Two lengths back before entering the first turn, Espinoza made the quick decision to get Stellar Wind involved—and it was likely the winning move. The chestnut with the diagonal white blaze never left Vale Dori's side the rest of the way, and the pair dueled to the wire in the stretch, while Finest City was never seriously involved.
"I wanted to let them go, but they slowed down pretty good into the first turn. I thought, 'We can't do that,'" Espinoza said. "I didn't want to send her too much, but I didn't want to just sit with her. The other two broke in front of me, so I thought I could follow them. Mike (Smith) took a hold of (Finest City) going into the first turn, so I wanted to find an opening and just let her run. I let her go and just put her right next to Vale Dori."
With her outside position, Stellar Wind only prevailed by a neck at the wire. She finished off the mile in 1:36.14 and claimed her fifth grade 1 win, following scores in the 2015 Santa Anita Oaks, the Hirsch and Zenyatta in 2016, and the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park in her 2017 debut.
Vale Dori led until the final sixteenth and the Bob Baffert trainee set fractions of :24.12, :47.64, and 1:11.36 through six furlongs under jockey Rafael Bejarano. In the late stages, even with her tail swishing, the Asiatic Boy mare dug in late to just miss.
"I'm very happy with her race," Bejarano said. "We got beat by a great horse. My horse finished strong. When Victor moved like he did ... it put the pressure on us."
Vale Dori entered the Beholder Mile on a six-race win streak, including five graded scores and a top-level score in the March 18 Santa Margarita (G1), but she had yet to face a rival at the level of Stellar Wind.
“She’s so tough. She doesn’t lose photos," said winning trainer John Sadler. "This was closer than I thought it was going to be, but (Vale Dori) is really a top mare now. We’re thrilled."
Espinoza began to ask Stellar Wind at about the three-eighths pole, but could not get by Vale Dori until the final stages.
"She won't do much on her own," Espinoza said. "She's amazing. She's an incredible mare, but I have to do my job. She always wins by enough. I have to encourage her to go forward. She's been like that from the first day I rode her."
With the victory Stellar Wind now has nine wins from 14 starts and more than $2 million in earnings. She was bred in Virginia by Keswick Stables and Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings out of the Malibu Moon mare Evening Star, and was a private purchase by her current connections after clearing the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale for $86,000 when obtained by Barbara J. Houck from Marshall Silverman's consignment. She also graduated the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga select yearling sale in 2013, where she sold for $40,000 from Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services to Vernan Lee Stables.
"She's so game. That's why she wins these races," said owner Kosta Hronis. "She's back. Our whole deal with bringing her back this year was if she was healthy and training well. Victor's early move here was the key to the race. This reminded me of running against Beholder."