The budding rivalry between champions Stellar Wind and Beholder produced another thrilling contest on Saturday when the two distaffers met for the third time in their careers, squaring off in the $300,000 Zenyatta Stakes (GI) at Santa Anita. In their two previous meetings, Beholder won one and Stellar Wind won the other, but, on Saturday, it was Stellar Wind who emerged victorious by a neck over her chief rival in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) “Win and You’re In” event.
As expected, the top pair put on quite a show, with Beholder setting all the pace in splits of :23.55, :46.23 and 1:09.75 with Stellar Wind glued to her outside at every call. As the pair made the turn for home, Stellar Wind made her challenge to the winner known and the two barreled down the stretch in tandem with Stellar Wind successfully emerging the narrow victor. After posting a mile in 1:35.06, she stopped the clock in 1:41.80.
Vale Dori crossed the wire another 11 ¾ lengths farther back in third and was followed by Tara’s Tango and Off the Road.
At odds of 2-1, Stellar Wind was good for $6, $2.20 and $2.10. Beholder, the 2-5 favorite, was worth $2.10 and $2.10. Vale Dori returned $2.40. The exacta was worth $3.90 and the $.50 trifecta $4.55.
“It’s a great day,” Espinoza said after winning his third graded stakes on the card. “I worked harder in her last race, the Clement Hirsch, than I did today. It’s always good to be next to Beholder, next to the queen. It’s always a plus. To be able to pull away the last eighth, it’s not easy. It’s hard, but Stellar Wind is an incredible mare and she will continue to be good.”
Next stop for both of the top-two finishers will be the distaff, according to their connections where racing fans may see the final race from the three-time champion Beholder.
“We’ll go to the Distaff from her,” Beholder’s trainer, Richard Mandella said. “My mare didn’t’ look like she ever gave up and those two finished well clear oft the rest of them. We didn’t’ really intend to go to the lead, but with a five-horse field what are you gonna do? Not to make excuses, but yes, I think a full field will help us next time.”