Stardom Bound, champion 2-year-old filly of 2008, could be headed for the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) after turning in a big effort in winning the $300,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) for new connections in her 2009 debut Feb. 7 at Santa Anita.
This was Stardom Bound's fourth consecutive grade I win and her first for IEAH Stables and partners, who paid $5.7 million for her at Fasig-Tipton in November. Bobby Frankel is the winning trainer.
Michael Iavarone, co-president of IEAH, told HRTV afterward that he hoped to see Stardom Bound take on males next in the April 4 Santa Anita Derby.
"That's what the racing fans want," he said. "I see no reason why she can't do it."
Making her first start since winning the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) convincingly over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface, Stardom Bound had to overcome a little anxiousness in the early portion of the race. But under Mike Smith, the gray/roan daughter of Tapit showed her customary strong kick. The 2-5 favorite angled off the pine to split horses at the top of the lane and ran down Saucey Evening and Nan in late stretch en route to a 1 1/4-length win. The final time for the one-mile test was 1:36.43.
Haka, who was moving with Stardom Bound coming off the final turn, rallied in deep stretch to nab second by a neck over Saucey Evening. Nan finished fourth.
“I was a little scared she was going to be a little too sharp, and she was sharp today," said Frankel, who did not train her excessively for the return. "She broke as well as she ever has today. She was fresh, and she was into the bridle all the way. I was a little concerned, because she didn’t drop back like she usually drops back. She’s a little sharper now. She’s a great filly.”
Asked about the Santa Anita Derby, the Hall of Fame trainer responsed, “Well, you’ve got to talk to the people that own her. I’ve got to think about it. I don’t want to stick my neck out right now.”
Haka, who was moving with Stardom Bound coming off the final turn, rallied in deep stretch to nab second by a neck over Saucey Evening.
Stardom Bound dropped out to last soon after the start and saved ground while moving up on the backstretch as Pinkarella, breaking from the far outside, sped to the early lead and then slowed things down. Held patiently by Smith, Stardom Bound waited while racing off heels around the final turn. She angled four wide when an opening appeared in upper stretch, splitting a retreating Century Park and Haka to loom into contention. Stardom Bound got the lead near the sixteenth pole and proved best in spite of drifting out slightly under steady handling.
“I was trying to slow her down going down the backside and get her to relax," Smith said. "She hadn’t run in six months, so she was wanting to go. I wasn’t concerned around the (far) turn when I was boxed in. I was actually glad to be bottled up really, because I didn’t want to ask her to run too early. I figured if I stayed stuck, something would probably open up by the eighth pole. She accelerates so good, it’s amazing. She’s a dream to ride.”
Early fractions were :23.02, :47.62, and 1:11.90.
Haka, who chased the pace while slightly off the rail under Rafael Bejarano, also closed on the outside to gain second willingly. Saucey Evening, who had edged ahead of Nan past mid-stretch, took third by three-quarters of a length.
Stardom Bound finished second in her first two starts and has not lost since, rattling off convincing late-running victories in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) and Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita prior to the Breeders' Cup when she was trained by Christopher Paasch for Charles Cono. She is perfect in three tries on the Pro-Ride surface.
Carrying top weight of 122 pounds, Stardom Bound paid $2.80, $2.40, and $2.10. She earned $180,000 for her fourth win in six starts and pushed her career earnings to $1,600,600.
In addition to IEAH, Stardom Bound is also owned by Paul Pompa Jr., Michael Dubb, and Golden Goose Entertainment. Fletcher Gray, Caroline Gray, and John Youngblood bred her in Kentucky out of My White Corvette, by Tarr Road.
Claiborne Farm's Haka, second in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) in her last start for trainer Christophe Clement, returned $5.80 and $3.20 while completing a $2 exacta worth $19. The California-bred Saucey Evening paid $2.40 to show.
Nan was followed by African Skies, Century Park, Toro Bonito, and Pinkarella.