The presence of Stardom Bound, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2008, didn't scare anyone out of the $150,000 La Canada Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 14 at Santa Anita. Fourteen 4-year-old fillies are entered in 1 1/8-mile Valentine's Day event over the Pro-Ride main track.
A five-time grade I winner, Stardom Bound seeks her first win since last spring's Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I). Now trained by Rick Dutrow Jr. for IEAH Stables and partners, the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Tapit is coming off a second-place finish in the El Encino Stakes (gr. II) Jan. 17. That was first start of the year for the flashy late-running gray/roan filly.
Stardom Bound will be ridden for the first time by Julien Leparoux, who replaces Mike Smith, the only jockey who has ridden her previously. They will break from post 8.
Others in the capacity field include Pretty Unusual, who upset the favored Stardom Bound in the El Encino at odds of 29-1; Unrivaled Belle, who defeated Stardom Bound when second in last November's Gazelle Stakes (gr. I) at Aqueduct; and Dream Empress, runner-up to Stardom Bound in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I).
Stardom Bound shares top weight of 123 pounds with Pretty Unusual, who also was entered in the $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap (gr. II) for fillies and mares a day before the La Canada. The La Canada is the eighth race with a probable post of 4:07 (PST). Aside from the weight, Pretty Unusual drew the far outside post in the La Canada.
Stardom Bound seeks a return to the form of 2008 and early 2009, when she reeled off five successive grade I wins for her former connections, the late Charles Cono and trainer Christopher Paasch. After a third-place finish in last year's Ashland Stakes (gr. I), Stardom Bound went to the sidelines for seven months, finally returning with a fifth-place finish in the Gazelle Nov. 28, the only out-of-the-money performance of her career.
She followed that effort with her runner-up showing in the El Encino when she rallied extremely wide for Smith but could not catch Pretty Unusual. Stardom Bound was beaten by 1 1/4 lengths in her only loss at Santa Anita in five starts.
Stardom Bound is by the far the most accomplished filly in the race, having compiled a 5-3-1 mark in 10 races with earnings of $1,859,600.
Pretty Unusual had the better trip in the El Encino, waiting behind the leaders and splitting horses in the stretch toward the inside to get a good jump on Stardom Bound. A California-bred daughter of Unusual Heat, Pretty Unusual will be making her fourth start in six weeks this weekend.
She returned from the El Encino with a solid third-place performance in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Jan. 30. Chantal Sutherland, who has ridden the bay filly in her last three races, retains the mount for owners Madeline Auerbach, Marie Goda, and Jack Klugman.
Unrivaled Belle, a daughter of Unbridled's Song out of Queenie Belle, gets her 2010 campaign underway for trainer Bill Mott. The gray/roan filly won three races in a row last year, capped by a romping victory in Belmont Park's Real Prize Stakes, prior to her runner-up try in the Gazelle when she was 4 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Flashing. Unrivaled Belle, who has been working in Florida for her return, drew the rail and will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux.
Dream Empress offered no response when finishing sixth in the El Encino last time out for trainer Ken McPeek. She is a grade I winner, capturing Keeneland's Alcibiades as a 2-year-old prior to running second to Stardom Bound in the BC Juvenile Fillies. But the daughter of Bernstein is winless in six tries since the Alcibiades. David Flores has the mount for the first time.
McPeek also entered Striking Dancer, switching from the turf in search of her first stakes win.
Freedom Star, a daughter of Street Cry, ran third in the El Encino for trainer Bob Baffert, finishing just a head behind Stardom Bound in her graded stakes debut. Freedom Star won a pair of optional claiming allowance heats to close out her campaign last year.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer entered a pair: Pretty Katherine, coming off an optional claiming win, and Spirit Seeker, fifth-place finisher in the El Encino.
Todd Pletcher is represented by Michael Tabor's Floating Heart, a Giant's Causeway filly who ran third in the 1 1/16-mile Paseana Handicap Jan. 9 at Santa Anita.
Irish-bred Applause makes her American debut for trainer Simon Callaghan after six starts in Great Britain, including a pair of victories on turf. She has not been out since a fourth-place finish in the Totesport.com Cambridgeshire Stakes on the Newmarket grass Oct. 3. Eddie Ahern has the ride.
Gripsholm Castle also arrives from Britain, where she won two of four starts for trainer Henry Cecil. His nephew, Ben Cecil, now trains the Kentucky-bred daughter of Dynaformer.
"She’s a nice, big, well-bred filly," Ben Cecil said. "We think if we can get black type on her, she’s probably going to be worth more than we paid for her.”
Gripsholm Castle broke her maiden at Newmarket last May with 124 pounds and won by seven lengths going 1 5/16 miles on turf at Haydock under 134 pounds.
$150,000 La Canada Stakes (gr. II, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), 4-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/8 Miles (Synthetic)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Unrivaled Belle (KY), K J Desormeaux, 118, W I Mott
2. Dream Empress (KY), D R Flores, 118, K G McPeek
3. Dave's Revenge (KY), B Blanc, 116, R B Hess, Jr.
4. Striking Dancer (KY), A O Solis, 116, K G McPeek
5. Freedom Star (KY), M Garcia, 116, B Baffert
6. Pretty Katherine (ON), J Rosario, 116, J Hollendorfer
7. Gripsholm Castle (KY), V Espinoza, 116, B D Cecil
8. Stardom Bound (KY), J R Leparoux, 123, R E Dutrow, Jr.
9. Gumption (KY), M E Smith, 116, B Headley
10. Miss Silver Brook (KY), G K Gomez, 116, J C Canani
11. Applause (IRE), E Ahern, 116, S Callaghan
12. Spirit Seeker (KY), R Bejarano, 116, J Hollendorfer
13. Floating Heart (KY), J Talamo, 116, T A Pletcher
14. Pretty Unusual (CA), C Sutherland, 123, B Abrams