Stellar Wind Sells For $6 Million At Auction

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Technically, trainer John Sadler’s job was done with regard to Stellar Wind‘s career around 4:48 p.m. PDT on the evening of Nov. 3.

After finishing eighth in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at Del Mar, the 5-year-old daughter of Curlin  was put on a plane bound for Kentucky to begin the next phase of her Eclipse Award-winning career. With her anticipated date inside the Keeneland sales pavilion looming, Sadler was well aware the time had come to hand off his stable star into the care of another.

What the veteran conditioner could not do, however, was let the mare who gave his barn all levels of thrills the past few seasons leave without overseeing one last memorable outing. With Sadler’s watchful eye trained on her once more, the leggy chestnut mare made sure that—this time—there was nothing remotely disappointing in her effort.

Hronis Racing’s Stellar Wind and jockey Victor Espinoza, outside, outleg Beholder (GaryStevens), inside, to win the Grade I, $300,000 Zenyatta Stakes, Saturday, October 1, 2016 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia CA.

Less than 24 hours after champions Songbird and Tepin had the commercial marketplace fawning over them at Fasig-Tipton, Stellar Wind took her turn in the public auction spotlight when she sold to representatives of Coolmore Stud for $6 million during the opening session of the Keeneland November sale Nov. 7.

On a day when eight offerings cracked the seven-figure threshold, Stellar Wind was the standout by open lengths over her competition. Consigned by Lane’s End, the multiple grade 1 winner had Sadler beaming in the back ring, after watching Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier sign the ticket for one of the best he has ever trained.

“I just came in to kind of finish the circle,” said Sadler of his trip to Keeneland specifically to watch Stellar Wind sell. “Absolutely, it’s sad to see her go, but she’s going on to her next career so we’re happy that she gets to go to the world’s best connections.

“I gave her mints this morning, she loves peppermints,” he added. “So we’re sending her off with a bag of fresh mints.”

Bred in Virginia by Keswick Stables & Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings out of the Malibu Moon  mare Evening Star, Stellar Wind was purchased privately by Hronis Racing after making her first two starts at Laurel Park. Shifted to Sadler on the West Coast, she campaigned through 14 more starts that saw her race almost exclusively at the top level from 2015 on. 

Her first of six grade 1 wins came in the 2015 Santa Anita Oaks (G1), the same year she earned Eclipse Award accolades for champion 3-year-old filly. While the following season did not yield any year-end hardware, it produced some of the best runs of Stellar Wind’s career as she defeated multiple Eclipse Award heroine Beholder in both the 2016 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) and Zenyatta Stakes (G1).

The lackluster nature of her final career start in the Distaff last Friday was particularly puzzling given that Stellar Wind had won three straight grade 1 tests heading into that outing, including a repeat triumph in the Clement L. Hirsch. As she stepped into the Keeneland pavilion and the board jumped from $500,000 to $1 million in a handful of seconds, however, it was clear the mare’s well-established class and elegant presence was foremost in the minds of bidders.

“She was really a lovely mare to have in the barn,” Sadler said. “She’s very feminine, very light on her feet, a really beautiful mover, and very correct. I think she checked all the boxes for someone who wants to breed a really top horse.”

With the Keeneland bid spotters doing yeoman work, Stellar Wind’s price crept up in $100,000, $200,000,and $300,000 jumps en route to equaling Take Charge Brandi (2015) as the second highest-priced broodmare prospect to sell at the November auction. After a brief hesitation at $5.7 million, Magnier signaled the final bid from the back ring to secure the mare he said will have a date with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah  in 2018.

“She was very good-looking, and she was a champion and was brilliant for most of her life,” Magnier said. “Let’s hope she can be just as good as a broodmare. We came out here early before the Breeders’ Cup looking at a lot of the American Pharoah foals, and they’ve really impressed us. From what we’ve seen in the sales last night and so far today, the reaction to them has been quite amazing… (After) speaking to all the lads, we are going to send her to American Pharoah.”

Stellar Wind’s price continued the top-end momentum that has been prevalent in the sales arena, particularly when it comes to obtaining young, beautiful mares. Songbird and Tepin sold for $9.5 million and $8 million, respectively, the evening before, leaving little doubt that a fellow champion with a pedigree and physical to match would be most sought after.

“Last night was crazy, and to see that definitely made us more confident, for sure,” said Bill Farish of Lane’s End.  “(The price) was right around where we thought she’d be. It’s a lot of money but she’s a champion and all the things we all know. The real quality is worth a lot of money these days, and getting into these female families is hard to do.”

Stellar Wind retired with 10 wins from 16 starts and $2,253,200 in earnings.

“Now I go back to California tomorrow and go to work on trying to make the next one,” Sadler said.