<
>

'Stardom' bound for Derby?

Editor's note: On Monday, trainer Bobby Frankel said that Stardom Bound's next race has not been determined, though the Santa Anita Derby is one of the options.

The process of naming a young racehorse is at times inspired, at other times hopeful, occasionally whimsical, imaginative or esoteric. Once in a blue moon, the result can be prophetic.

A bit less than three months from the 135th Kentucky Derby, nothing is certain. The picture is confetti in the wind. The casualty list is in an early stage of compilation. The champion 2-year-old male of 2008 and his closest pursuer are in Dubai and therefore written off by many. All of the major preps are down the road and it is far too early in the process to have learned much that is meaningful about this group of 3-year-olds.

Except this: Stardom Bound is not only most prophetically named horse in training -- perhaps ever -- but the most exciting filly sent along the road to the Kentucky Derby since Winning Colors, the last female to win America's race.

Two other thoroughbreds, foals of 1981 and '97, have been named Stardom Bound, both males without race records. This filly, however, was stardom bound from the outset.
Though a daughter of Tapit, whose advertised stud fee is $12,500, and a mare by Tarr Road named My White Corvette, Stardom Bound brought $375,000 -- 30 times the stud fee -- after having breezed three furlongs in 33 seconds prior to a March sale of 2-year-olds in training last year at Ocala. Racing's all-time bust, The Green Monkey, sold for $16 million after a work like that but Stardom Bound has fulfilled that promise and more.

This is the kid of horse that can excite people, whip up a media frenzy. "This is the kind of horse who has me excited," Bob Baffert, who does not often become exited about horse trained by others, told the Los Angeles Times last weekend.

Stardom Bound has charisma. She is gray. She lags behind the pace with the nonchalance of the hottest girl at the party. When she's ready, she unleashes a devastating run that is always more than sufficient to leave the competition humbled if not awestricken. Since finishing second in two sprints at Del Mar last summer, distances that simply did not fully accommodate her running style, she has won the Del Mar Debutante, Oak Leaf Stakes, Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, was the overwhelming choice as champion juvenile female of 2008 and last weekend made her 3-year-old debut in the Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita for her fourth Grade 1 title, running past the field with an absurdly wide move that is beginning to become routine.

Stardom Bound cost IEAH Stables, suddenly a fixture in the Triple Crown, $5.7 million at auction after she won the Juvenile Fillies in the colors of Charles Cono, who, as planned, liquidated his thoroughbred interest at season's end. The filly, trained last year by Christopher Paasch, is now in the hands of Bobby Frankel, who sold his own 2-year-old star of 2008, Vineyard Haven, to Godolphin Racing for a reported $12 million. She was purchased with the Kentucky Derby in mind and now she is only a race away.
So, bring on the boys.

IEAH president Michael Iavarone said after the Las Virgenes that Stardom Bound, on April 4, will make her next start in the Santa Anita Derby, a race won by Winning Colors before her historic victory at Churchill Downs. "That's what the racing fans want to see," Iavarone said.

Well, yes; it's exactly what they want to see.

In an age at which the Derby's 10 furlongs is beyond most horses, distance appears to fit Stardom Bound like a little black dress fits Jennifer Lopez. It cannot hurt that she is a product of Hollywood, a developing story equipped with jockey Mike Smith, who happens to be one of the central figures of the current Animal Planet series, "Jockey," and rides the undefeated superstar mare Zenyatta. Someone should option the movie rights now.

Should she win the Santa Anita Derby, Stardom Bound will move on to Kentucky without having been tested on dirt and will still be faced with questions concerning the translation of her synthetic-track form. By then, the bandwagon will have become a train.

Paul Moran is a two-time winner of the Media Eclipse Award, and has received various honors from the National Association of Newspaper Editors, Society of Silurians, Long Island Press Club and Long Island Veterinary Medical Association. He has also been given the Red Smith Award for his coverage of the Kentucky Derby. Paul maintains paulmoranattheraces.blogspot.com and can be contacted at paulmoran47@hotmail.com.