January 13, 2010

California Dreamin’ with Stardom Bound

As white as the snow of a Winter’s day, Stardom Bound was the toast of the racing world this time last year. The beautiful daughter of Tapit ruled over Southern Californian peers with an iron hoof. After flying finishes to be second in her first two starts, she tore through her competition to the tune of five consecutive grade 1 wins and collected an Eclipse Award as the juvenile filly champion of 2008. Not since the days of the great Vigors, had there been such a stretch running, silver streak. Her final win of the grade 1 skein was the prestigious Santa Anita Oaks in March. That race marked the first time in the streak where she did not win going away, but it was impressive nonetheless as the gray went very wide and was still seventh in the stretch before unleashing her patented late run to get up on the shadow of the wire. The Kentucky Derby was under consideration. The racing world appeared to be at her mercy.

Flash-forward one Winter and the perfectly pure snow has been mixed with a bit of slush. Stardom Bound has raced just twice since taking the Santa Anita Oaks. Her winning streak ended with a third place finish in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes. It was a shocking loss, at odds on, for the champion. It marked her first race outside of the Southern California circuit, and while it had been decided she would not pursue Derby dreams to go for the Oaks, it was still a major blow for the star filly. A minor injury kept her out of the Kentucky Oaks and away from the races for some time. She returned from more than seven months off and finished fifth in the Grade 1 Gazelle Handicap at Aqueduct on Thanksgiving weekend. Hopes had been so high. It was a big disappointment for everyone rooting for Stardom Bound and the doubters came out in droves. Many surmised that Stardom Bound was no longer the same filly who had accomplished so much. Would we ever see the real Stardom Bound again?

In Sunday’s El Encino Stakes, Stardom Bound will be back at Santa Anita, the site of her exciting Breeders’ Cup win, for the first time since her win in the Oaks. Once again hopes are high. Mike Smith will be in the saddle, as he has been for every one of her nine previous starts. Stardom Bound, who had been purchased for $5.7 million dollars by IEAH Stables after her BC win, has been trained by Rick Dutrow since leaving California. Despite the Ashland and Gazelle results, her trainer remains confident in her ultimate ability, and the people around her are still believing in big things for their filly. Can a return home begin a return to glory? The homecoming not only brings back familiar surroundings, it also includes a return to the synthetic surface that she loved. There is good reason to be hopeful for success. A win on Sunday would thrill her throngs of followers, but it would also mark a resurrection of one of racing’s biggest stars.

While the El Encino will be the first non-grade 1 race since her second lifetime start, Stardom Bound is not in store for an easy run. Chief among her rivals will be the Bill Mott trained Justwhistledixie. The four-year-old daughter of Dixie Union will attempt to return to winning ways, as the four-time stakes winner has also not seen the winner’s circle since last March. She has yet to run a poor race though, and will be a major threat in her first race in California and on a synthetic surface. Tough competition to be sure for Stardom Bound, but I have a feeling a return to the site of her greatest success just might be the key in revitalizing her career, and wouldn’t we all like to see the old Stardom Bound again?


Anonymous said...

Hi, Brian,

Ah yes... he filly that Mike Smith called "Little Zenyatta."

Sometimes fillies lose interest in racing after their two-year-old season, according to some out there, especially if they've been injured. We always wonder, when there's been a hiatus in their racing, if they will feel like racing. I would love to see Stardom Bound come back.

Interesting that Big Zenyatta never lost interest, though one might think so from watching how she lazes about the track till suddenly she says to herself, "Well, I guess I'm supposed to be racing. Better get going." Then we know what has always happened!

I personally think that Zen should keep on racing because she has such a good time doing what she does, or she should be a dressage horse. Bering just another mama on the back forty just doesn't sound right to me.

the other Rachel

Brian Zipse said...

the other Rachel,

It is true than many horses, especially fillies, can lose interest in racing during the offseason, but remember two of Stardom Bound's big wins came after she returned for her 3-year-old season. Whether or not she was as good as she was as a juvenile is another question.

LDP said...

Though RA is my very favorite horse still in training as of now, SB is a filly I always root for. She is so unique, not only in running style, but her coloring. Mike Smith called her "baby Zenyatta" for a reason. I still think she can rebound. I'll be rooting for her, she deserves a second chance.

Anonymous said...

I love Stardom Bound and will be rooting for her to make a statemenet this Sunday! She can do it I'm sure, go baby go! (: