Stel­lar Wind gets a fi­nal shot

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By Brad Free

DEL MAR, Calif. – Show time for Breed­ers’ Cup 2017, fi­nally.

It took a long while for the Breed­ers’ Cup to reach the beach, as Del Mar track pres­i­dent Joe Harper ac­knowl­edged this week at the post draw.

“We’ve been look­ing to get this since 1984,” said Harper, re­fer­ring to the first year of the Breed­ers’ Cup. “We had to build a new grand­stand, new rac­ing fa­cil­i­ties, do a lot of work. [Thirty-three] years later, it’s here. And we’re go­ing to have a great time.”

Yes, the fun is about to start. What hap­pens next is up to the horses, in­clud­ing eight top fil­lies and mares in the $2 mil­lion Breed­ers’ Cup Distaff, race 9 on Fri­day. The Distaff fol­lows the BC Ju­ve­nile Fil­lies Turf (race 6) Dirt Mile (race 7), and Ju­ve­nile Turf (race 8).

Stel­lar Wind and Elate are the key play­ers in an evenly matched Distaff field. Like Del Mar, some waited a long time for a chance like Fri­day’s.

Stel­lar Wind had to wait an­other year for a fair shot in the Distaff. She fin­ished sec­ond with a trou­bled trip in 2015, and she broke slowly and fin­ished fourth in 2016.

This year, Stel­lar Wind has won all three of her starts, all Grade 1’s, to emerge as the coun­try’s top older fe­male. But there is unfinished busi­ness for the 5-2 Distaff fa­vorite. Stel­lar Wind will be sold as a brood­mare Tues­day. She has one fi­nal shot at the Distaff, and ev­ery­thing has gone to plan.

Trainer John Sadler skipped a fi­nal prep for Stel­lar Wind to bring her in fresh, as in 97-day fresh. The mare schooled re­peat­edly in the gate, try­ing to avoid the bad start that cost her one year ago.

“No stone un­turned,” Sadler said. “But these races are al­ways hard to win be­cause you have so many great horses.”

Sadler is 0 for 39 in the Breed­ers’ Cup. It is a mis­lead­ing stat. Only five started at 5-1 odds or less. Stel­lar Wind or Dirt Mile con­tender Ac­cel­er­ate would be Sadler’s first BC fa­vorite.

As for Elate, trainer Bill Mott waited un­til sum­mer for the 3-year-old to get it to­gether. When she fi­nally did, she ex­ploded. Elate en­ters off two blowout wins in New York.

Other con­tenders in­clude a pair of elite 3-year-olds – fron­trun­ner Par­adise Woods and stretch-run­ning Ken­tucky Oaks win­ner Abel Tas­man.

Two more 5-year-olds are con­tenders. For­ever Un­bri­dled won the Grade 1 Per­sonal En­sign at Saratoga, and Ro­man­tic Vi­sion up­set the Spin­ster at Keeneland.

Out­siders in­clude Cham­pagne Room, whose $69.20 stun­ner in the 2016 Ju­ve­nile Fil­lies is a re­minder that up­sets hap­pen. Mopo­tism is ex­pected to be the long­est shot the field.

Stel­lar Wind was pur­chased pri­vately for $450,000 by Sadler and own­ers Kosta and Pete Hro­nis fol­low­ing a maiden romp in late 2014 at Lau­rel. She has never looked back.

SHIGEKI KIKKAWA

Stel­lar Wind is un­de­feated in three starts this year, but en­ters the Distaff off a 97-day lay­off.

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