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story.lead_photo.caption The Sentinel-Record/Mara Kuhn EARLY FAVORITE: Jockey Victor Espinoza rides Stellar Wind to win the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park on April 14. Stellar Wind is the early 5-2 pick in the mile and an eighth Breeders' Cup Distaff Saturday at Del Mar.

Oaklawn Park lost one rooting interest in the Breeders' Cup Distaff but has the probable favorite and two more contenders in Friday's $2 million race at Del Mar.

Stellar Wind is the early 5-2 choice in a field of nine fillies and mares going a mile and an eighth. Champion filly at 3 and two-time winner over the great Beholder at 4, Stellar Wind can end a perfect 5-year-old campaign with her fourth Grade 1 victory of 2017.

John Sadler brings Curlin's daughter into the Distaff off a freshening since her July victory in Del Mar's Clement L. Hirsch. Fourth in last year's Distaff at Santa Anita, Stellar Wind returned in April and won Oaklawn's Apple Blossom Handicap with a stalking trip against local star Terra Promessa.

A second Apple Blossom winner is entered Friday with 5-year-old Forever Unbridled hoping to improve on her third-place Distaff finish last year for trainer Dallas Stewart.

The daughter of Unbridled's Song and Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever had a bone chip removed after last year's Distaff and here makes only her third start of the season. But in her last race, Forever Unbridled was at peak form in a neck victory over two-time champion (and subsequently retired) Songbird in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga. Forever Unbridled comes from behind but won the Personal Ensign with less than a favorable pace setup.

"She's a good filly and needs to get in a position where she gets out without being stopped," said owner/breeder Charles Fipke.

A race within the race involves the 3-year-old filly division, boasting several top contenders but lacking a clear leader.

Oaklawn's March 11 Honeybee could factor into that search with beaten favorite Elate early 5-2 second choice in the Distaff. A product of Oaklawn stakes winners Medaglia d'Oro and Cheery, Elate has solid connections in owners Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider plus Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Elate has achieved true blueblood status since Oaklawn, beating her peers in Saratoga's Grade 1 Alabama in August and defeating older fillies and mares in Belmont Park's Grade 1 Beldame Sept. 30.

(Honeybee and last-out Grade 1 Cotillion winner It Tiz Well was declared out of the Distaff last week, two days after a workout. Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said the setback is not serious and that he plans to keep the filly in training.)

Abel Tasman, a two-time Grade 1 winner (Kentucky Oaks included) for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert since moved from the barn of Simon Callaghan, has a Del Mar victory. Champagne Room has made only two starts since winning last year's BC Juvenile Fillies at 33-1 odds but ran away with the Remington Park Oaks in late September.

Paradise Woods, beaten favorite in the Kentucky Oaks, has taken Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella on, he says, "an exciting journey." Her second Grade 1 win of the year came by 5 1/4 lengths against older rivals in the Sept. 30 Zenyatta at Santa Anita -- that following an eventful Aug. 27 Grade 3 race at Del Mar that Union Rags' daughter stumbled out of the gate and finished well back.

"She's very good, but we hit a couple of foul balls with her," said Mandella, whose Beholder defined greatness among her gender in a post-Zenyatta world. "We straightened it back out and got her over the fence last time."

Romantic Vision, last-out winner of Keeneland's Grade 1 Spinster for trainer Rusty Arnold, comples the Distaff field. Post time is 6:35 p.m. Friday.

Sports on 11/01/2017

Print Headline: Stellar Wind favored in Oaklawn-friendly Distaff

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