Stellar Wind freshened for third Distaff attempt
The Breeders’ Cup Distaff is the highlight of the year for dirt females, and it might possibly be third time lucky for Stellar Wind.
The 5-year-old Virginia-bred mare has won 10 of her 15 starts, but two of her defeats have come in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. She finished a close second to Stopchargingmaria in 2015, with a protest proving unsuccessful, and last year she finished fourth behind Beholder, Songbird, and Forever Unbridled.
Stellar Wind may have been slightly over the top last year after a hard-fought lead-up victory over Beholder in the Zenyatta Stakes (G1) Oct. 1. This year she hasn’t raced since winning the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar July 30. She won the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) and the Beholder Mile (G1) at her earlier 2017 starts.
Forever Unbridled returns after an even lighter campaign than Stellar Wind. An exciting closer, she rallied strongly to win both the Fleur De Lis (G2) and the Personal Ensign (G1), the latter of which saw her topple the soon-to-be-retired Songbird.
Against them is a good group of 3-year-old fillies. Abel Tasman was the divisional leader after winning the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Acorn Stakes (G1), and Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), narrowly beating Elate. She then finished second in the Cotillion (G1), while Elate has improved further and scored decisive victories in the Alabama Stakes (G1) and the Beldame Stakes (G1).
Paradise Woods thrashed Abel Tasman in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1), but she didn’t fire as favorite in the Kentucky Oaks, nor in the Torrey Pines Stakes (G3) at Del Mar, before returning to form in the Zenyatta Stakes (G1). She clearly has ability, but her lack of form away from Santa Anita is a concern.
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner Champagne Room returns after leading all the way in the Remington Park Oaks last month. The opposition wasn’t of Distaff caliber, but she knows how to win on Breeders’ Cup day.
Romantic Vision won the Spinster Stakes (G1) on a sloppy track, but her form isn’t of the same quality as the favorites. Mopotism completes the field, and it would be a surprise if she won.
Paradise Woods and Champagne Room are likely pace setters. Elate and Stellar Wind are expected to play stalking roles, while Abel Tasman and Forever Unbridled will probably settle towards the rear.
Punters should keep a clear eye on the pattern of racing to see if it favors leaders or closers. If it’s fair, then Stellar Wind, Forever Unbridled, and Elate could be the ones to watch, though Abel Tasman and Paradise Woods could win without surprising. For an eight-horse field, there should be some good odds available.