Although champion Stardom Bound is the clear choice for the April 4 Ashland Stakes (gr. I) opening weekend at Keeneland, the daughter of Tapit has her work cut out of for her when facing an accomplished field of eight other fillies looking to secure a spot in the May 1 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
The 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies has an approximate post time of 5:05 p.m EDT.
California-based superstar Stardom Bound, who has captured her last five straight grade I races in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion, will go against the likes of other graded victors Dream Empress and Gozzip Girl, plus undefeated What A Pear.
After having raced for trainer Bobby Frankel in her two previous races of 2009, Stardom Bound will be saddled for the first time in the Ashland by Rick Dutrow Jr. She is owned by the partnership of IEAH Stables, Paul Pompa Jr., Michael Dubb, and Gary Tolchin, and David Lanzman, who recently purchased a 25% interest in the filly.
Following runner up efforts in her first two starts as a juvenile, Stardom Bound began reeling off consecutive grade I triumphs on the West Coast circuit, including a scintillating victory in last year’s Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park.
The big question mark lies in how Stardom Bound will fare outside of her home base of Southern California. In making her Keeneland debut, her connections are hopeful she will relish the Polytrack as much as she did the Santa Anita Pro-Ride surface, over which she won the March 7 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) by a nose last out.
Mike Smith, who has ridden Stardom Bound in all seven of her starts, will have the call April 4 and break from post 7. Bred in Kentucky by Fletcher and Carolyn Gray and John Youngblood, Stardom Bound is out of the Tarr Road mare My White Corvette.
Looking to end Stardom Bound’s hot streak is cross country traveler Dream Empress, who is the only other grade I victor in the field. Although the daughter of Bernstein—Chinese Empress, by Nijinsky II is coming off consecutive off-the-board efforts, she does have the advantage of already having a significant Keeneland victory under her belt.
After capturing last year’s Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) at the Lexington track, Dream Empress was second by 1 1/2 lengths to Stardom Bound in the Breeders' Cup. Unsuccessful at grade II races at Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park following that effort, Dream Empress will now seek a rematch with Stardom Bound in the Ashland.
“We’re excited to get her back to the track where she had her biggest win,” said trainer Ken McPeek. “We’re a little perplexed by her last race (a seventh to Gozzip Girl in the Herecomesthebride); the only thing we could come up with was that maybe the turf course was a little hard that day. But we’re figuring if she’ll run back to her better races that she ran last fall, then she ought to be able to be part of the finish in this thing.
"She definitely likes it (at Keeneland). She’s trained there a good part of her career, so its home. We’re 0-for-1 against (Stardom Bound), so we’re going to see if we can make amends.”
Bred in Kentucky by Hopewell Investments, Grencrest Farm, and Bryan Cross, Dream Empress is owned by Kenny Colliver’s Livin the Dream Racing. She will break from post 6 in the Ashland with Kent Desormeaux in the irons.
Gozzip Girl, winner of the March 15 Herecomesthebride Stakes (gr. IIIT) last out at Gulfstream Park, is also looking to post an upset victory.
Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, the daughter of Dynaformer--Temperence Gift, by Kingmambo has won three of her five starts for Robert and Myron Miller’s Ocala, Florida-based Farnsworth Farms and trainer Tom Albertrani.
Prior to her Herecomesthebride effort, she took the Coconut Grove Stakes, also on the Gulfstream turf. The Ashland will mark Gozzip Girl’s first start on Polytrack. She will be ridden by Miguel Mena, and will break from post 5.
Tri-Bone Stables’ What a Pear could pose a threat in the Ashland due to her impressive record of four victories in as many starts. The daughter of E Dubai most recently won consecutive stakes at Aqueduct, the most impressive was a 10 1/4-length triumph in the Feb. 22 Bushear Stakes at the Ashland distance.
Channing Hill gets the mount for What a Pear, who is trained by Joseph Park.
The three other fillies that finished in a four-horse photo with Stardom Bound in the Santa Anita Oaks have also shipped east to tackle the champion again. Ike and Dawn Thrash’s Third Dawn, Derby Daze Farms and Mark Hoffman’s Hooh Way, and J. Paul Reddam’s Nan finished second, third and fourth, respectively.
$400,000 Ashland Stakes (gr. I, Race 9, 5:05 p.m.), 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 miles
PP. Weight, Horse, Jockey
1. Nan, 121, Robby Albarado
2. What a Pear, 121, Channing Hill
3. Third Dawn, 121, Alan Garcia
4. Be Fair, 121, Israel Ocampo
5. Gozzip Girl, 121, Miguel Mena
6. Dream Empress, 121, Kent Desormeaux
7. Stardom Bound, 121, Mike Smith
8. Hooh Why, 121, Rene Douglas
9. Boleyn, 121, Jamie Theriot