2017 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes Picks
Top Two Contenders Are Closely Matched
On paper there isn't much to separate between Stellar Wind (6-5 favorite in the morning line odds) and Vale Dori (7-5) and there hasn't been much to seperate them on the track, either.
The two last met in early June in the (G1) Beholder Mile at Santa Anita race track, a race that only featured one other entry. That didn't matter much, as these two turned it into a match race, with Vale Dori holding no more than a length lead over the Stellar Wind at any point after they turned onto the backstretch, until that one got her head in front at the top of the lane and they raced that way to the wire.
Stellar Wind Now 2-for-2 Over Rival
That was the second time Stellar Wind has beaten Vale Dori, the other being in the (G1) Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita last October. Stellar Wind is the defending champion of this race, a winner of four of her last five, all at the Grade 1 level, and the winner of five Grade 1 stakes overall. She was second in the 2015 Breeders' Cup Distaff, and fourth in that race last year.
It also appears she'll get some help pushing the pace against Vale Dori, as trainer John Sadler has also entered Shenandoah Queen (20-1) with the presumed plan to have her try to go to the lead right away, make Vale Dori go after her, and giving Stellar Wind a chance to relax behind the pace.
The problem for Stellar Wind and jockey Victor Espinoza is that Vale Dori is an excellent mare in her own right, and likes to win racing at the front. If she puts Shenendoah Queen away and goes into the stretch run with an open-lengths lead, she may be difficult to run down, even for the likes of Stellar Wind. An Argentina-bred trained by Bob Baffert, Vale Dori had won five straight graded stakes prior to the Beholder, with one of those a Grade 1.
In what is as much a race between two trainers, the only other entry in the field in double-digit ML odds is the other Baffert entry, Faithfully (4-1) who will break from the outside post. She has been first or second in her last seven starts, with three wins. But she's taking a big step up in class here, as only the most recent of those came at the stakes level.
She beat a good field in that race, and the second-place finisher won her next time out, an important handicapping angle. She could benefit and get a piece if the pace gets really hot and either of the top two falter late, but beating both of them seems to be a lot to ask.
Of the rest of the field, Autumn Flower (15-1) has lots of recent graded-stakes experience, and has managed to come from out of the pack and get up for third three times in her last five races, and it's entirely likely she could manage the same thing here.
Breaking from the inside, Motown Lady (12-1) will be making her US graded-stakes debut, although she did run in a Grade 3 even in Canada last year, where she finished fourth. Since then she's raced at Fair Grounds in Lousiana and Churchill Downs, where she won last out in an allowance event. She's a daughter of the highly regarded sire Uncle Mo, but based on past performance it appears she's in over her head here.
As mentioned, it's expected trainer John Sadler will be asking jockey Drayden Van Dyke on Shenandoah Queen to make Vale Dori chase a quick pace through the early part of the race, and have her stablemate take over. She does have four wins from nine lifetime starts on her resume, however this will be her first start at the Stakes level.
The Clement L. Hirsch Stakes goes Sunday, July 30 from Del Mar Race Track in California. Post time is 5:40 PM Pacific. Check out one of our top-rated racebooks, and bet the race from your PC or mobile device.
Entries w/ML Odds
1) Motown Lady (12-1)
2) Vale Dori (7-5)
3) Stellar Wind (6-5)
4) Autumn Flower (15-1)
5) Shenandoah Queen (20-1)
6) Faithfully (4-1)
#1 - Stellar Wind
#2 - Vale Dori
#3 - Faithfully
#4 - Autumn Flower
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