CHAMPION STELLAR WIND RETURNS A WINNER IN APPLE BLOSSOM
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, April 13, 2017) – Hronis Racing LLC.’s Stellar Wind, making her first start since finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), returned in fine fashion to win Friday’s $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) by 1 ¼ lengths over four-time Oaklawn stakes winner Terra Promessa.
The 5-year-old Curlin mare, voted champion 3-year-old filly of 2015, improved her record to eight wins from 14 starts and has now earned $1,813,200. She completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42 3/5 over a fast track under jockey Victor Espinoza. The winner paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10 as the heavy 2-5 favorite.
Azeri Stakes winner Streamline was third, followed by Tiger Moth, Divine Elegance and Durango.
One race earlier, Clearview Stable’s Ever So Clever earned a trip to the Kentucky Oaks with her come-from-behind victory in the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3). Following two fifth-place finishes in both the Martha Washington and Honeybee (G3), the Medaglia d’Oro filly rebounded for a 1 ¾ lengths over Chanel’s Legacy. Vexatious was third. Benner Island, the 6-5 favorite, finished fifth.
Ever So Clever earned 100 points toward eligibility in the Kentucky Oaks and is now ranked third with 106 points in the field limited to 14 starts. Chanel’s Legacy is ranked 10th with 51 points after picking up and additional 40 points.
The Fantasy winner completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42 3/5. She returned $33.60, $13.40 and $7 at odds of 15-1.
Live racing resumes Saturday for the final card of the 2017 racing season with a special 12:30 p.m. first post. The day will be highlighted by the $1 million Arkansas Derby and three other stakes.
Apple Blossom Quotes:
Victor Espinoza (jockey, winner Stellar Wind) – On wearing the blanket of white and hot-pink carnations, which he said weighed 200 pounds): “Listen, when I win, nothing is heavy. I mean, these weigh more than me. But now that I win with Stellar Wind, I feel like they are light.”
On his trip: “It was great. I thought it was good when she broke out of there great. Then in the first turn, I thought my trip was not so good because I got stuck in behind the leaders on the inside. I think, OK, if the outside horse doesn’t get tired at the end, I might have some trouble. But it worked out well. Because the other one couldn’t keep up with the leader. I had a little time to move out and just move forward to attack the one on the lead.”
“I think she’s better than before. I always believed in her. As she’s gotten older, she’s more mature, more professional. But it seems like this year, she’s coming back great, and maybe even a little better than last year.”
“I really do want her to run in the Breeders’ Cup and get her a win. She’s had a little bit of bad luck the last two times. The first time, she got carried a little wide and I just got beat at Keeneland. Last time, she missed the break and that was it. The race was over for her. Hopefully this will be her year.”
John Sadler (trainer, winner Stellar Wind) – “There’s plenty of reservations, always with good horses, that you’re doing the right thing (bringing them for another season). After her 3-year-old year, we talked about going two more years. She’s a late-maturing filly, and we thought she had a chance to be her best at 4 and 5. Kosta said last year, ‘If you think she’s going to be good, we don’t want to stop on her.’ She came out of the Breeders’ Cup in good shape, gave her a little rest and got her back here.”
“I was happy she had an eye on that 1 horse (Terra Promessa). I didn’t want that horse to get too easy a lead. So he was stalking her from the inside, then he came to the outside. I knew as long as Victor had an eye on the 1 horse, we’d be in good shape. She’s got a nice kick and a lot of ability to go the distance.
“Terra Promessa ran a great race. Barbara Banke (owner of Terra Promessa and co-breeder of Stellar Wind) came up to the table and said, ‘I hope it’s a Curlin exacta.’ I said, ‘Me, too.’ Just thinking with a different Curlin.”
(Note: Both horses were sired by Curlin, whom Banke campaigned with her late husband Jess Jackson.)
“We’ll get her home and look at the races around the country. We’d like to run once at home. It’s her home base. Probably run in the Beholder (stakes formerly named the Vanity and now named for the multiple champion that Stellar Wind beat twice and lost to twice last year).”
Winning owner Kosta Hronis: “She wanted another year under her belt, she wanted to race. She’s in great shape, so we thought we’d keep her on the track at least another year. We’re happy with her comeback race. Just really proud of her.”
(Unfinished business in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff?) “She definitely does. That’s probably one of the main reasons she’s back (racing). We love her.”
Stephanie Hronis: “Just honored to be part of the journey with her. She’s special.”
Steve Asmussen (trainer of second-place Terra Promessa, and who also trained two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, who is the sire of the top two finishers): “She ran a good race. I mean, she really did. Hat’s off to a champion who beat her, but Terra Promessa definitely ran a good race. A nice Curlin exacta.
“As bad as the Azeri went, I think she rebounded from that. No aftereffects from the trip in the Azeri and she ran her race today. She got beat by arguably the best mare in the country, and she’ll go to Churchill Downs from here. And if we think she needs a little time, (owner) Stonestreet, the farm where she spent a lot of time at, is right there. But she ran a very good race today to be second to a champion.”
Jockey Jose Ortiz, second aboard Terra Promessa – “I think she ran great. She broke great and ran the half in: 481 which was perfect I think. When I asked her to go, she gave me a great turn of foot. The other filly did so well too. We went head to head and she beat me today, but my filly gave a great effort.”
Trainer Brian Williamson, third with Streamline – “She ran good, we were just third best. It isn't any shame to get beat by those two, I'm going to tell you that. That's all we can ask for. Looked like she pulled up good."
Jockey Chris Landeros, third aboard Streamline – “She ran good, no excuses. (If I could do something differently) I would have stayed with Terra Promessa.”
Fantasy Stakes Quotes:
Steve Asmussen (winning trainer, Ever So Clever) — (Watching replay) “Right here, I was ‘Keep coming, mama. Keep coming.’”
“Luis gave her a perfect trip. Nice filly. Nice filly. The filly broke fine from the 12 hole. He made an immediate decision, got over. She was probably only 6-7 off the lead around the first turn, two-wide and carrying him well. I thought it made the difference in the race.”
“I felt very good about how the filly trained and that he had ridden her before. I felt we had a lot more horse going into today.”
(You seemed extremely happy) “The filly has a great personality, and we’ve always felt this way about her. And for her now to win a nice graded stakes is what she deserves.”
(Ky Oaks, we assume?) “She’s going to Churchill Monday and it’s fun to have her there.”
Luis Contreras (winning jockey) — “She felt great today. The last time I got an opportunity to ride her, she finished fifth. I learned a lot and Steve gave me some advice about the filly, how she likes to run. we got everything perfect today. From the time we broke, she did everything by herself. i just waited, got patient and kicked in at the quarter pole, and she gave me everything.”
(Did you feel like you could run the leader down?) “Once I started making my move, I wasn’t worried about anybody in the race. I just went with the momentum and enjoyed the last part of the race.”
(You seemed pretty excited) “Oh, that was great. This is special for me.”
Jockey Alex Birzer (runner-up Chanel’s Legacy) –”Yeah she just ran a big race, had a little more time in between races this go and she just ran a big race. They (did) an excellent job getting her ready for this. Wasn't necessarily planning on going, but you just can't see what happens and nobody else really went. They let me nurse a nice little lead; she ran a big race.”
Trainer Lynn Chleborad (runner-up Chanel’s Legacy) – “She tried so hard. I'm so proud of her. It was a nail bitter right down to the wire. I thought Alex did a great job backing them up. I'm proud of the whole team, the horse. It's exciting.”
Owner Allen Poindexter (runner-up Chanel’s Legacy) (On to Ky Oaks, if she’s OK)
“Oh, second was great. Forty points. I don’t know what to say.”
Jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard 3rd place finisher Vexatious – “She ran a much improved race, but I had to do a lot of altering of course and I was beaten a lip for 2nd.”
Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. aboard beaten favorite Benner Island – “I won’t make an excuse. We were in a perfect spot in first turn and in second turn we were in a perfect spot and she got a little tired.”
Brad Cox, trainer of beaten favorite Benner Island – “She was in a great position. I don’t know. She didn’t have the answer today. He had her in a perfect spot. I honestly don’t know. Disappointed. It’s a roller-coaster game, and most of the time the roller-coaster is going down.”