Stardom Bound, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2008, will be heavily favored to notch her fifth consecutive victory when she takes on nine rivals in Saturday’s $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks (Grade I) over the synthetic Cushion Track surface at Santa Anita.
But it could be the last time she faces members of her gender for a while.
1 1/16-mile race could earn the champ a date against males in the April 4 Santa Anita Derby (GI). That race could be followed by a return bid against boys on May 2 in the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), rather than face fillies a day earlier in the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks (GI).
Stardom Bound, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI), was purchased for $5.7 million at the Keeneland November Sale by a group headed by IEAH Stables, the group that was the majority owner of 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown. She is now trained by Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel.
The champion is the only graded stakes winner in the Santa Anita Oaks field, but several opponents have run well in major races. Will O Way, winner of the California Oaks at Golden Gate Fields last time out, finished third to Stardom Bound in the Del Mar Debutante (GI). Nan finished fourth to the champion in the Las Virgenes, while unbeaten Beltene steps up to graded stakes company after winning the Sunshine Millions Oaks at Santa Anita on Jan. 24.
SOUTH/SMALL FIELD SHAPES UP TO FACE RACHEL ALEXANDRA IN FAIR GROUNDS OAKS
A field of only four or five opponents is shaping up to face Golden Rod (GII) winner Rachel Alexandra in the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (GII), which is scheduled for March 14 at New Orleans’ Fair Grounds.
The Hal Wiggins-trained Rachel Alexandra scored a dominant eight-length victory in Oaklawn Park’s Martha Washington in the first outing of her 3-year-old season. She is expected to be one of the favorites in next week’s Kentucky Oaks Future Wager pool, which is scheduled for March 12-15.
Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen saddled the top two finishers in the recent Silverbulletday (GIII) at Fair Grounds in War Echo and Four Gifts, but the winner has since moved to the sidelines with an injury. Asmussen expects to run Four Gifts in the Fair Grounds Oaks, and could enter Hightap in the race.
Flying Spur and War Tigress are expected to run, while trainer Ken McPeek has indicated that he could send either Our Dahlia, Striking Dancer or Best Lass to New Orleans for the race.
SOUTHEAST/LARAGH TAKES FIRST STEP ON ROAD TO KENTUCKY OAKS
Hollywood Starlet (GI) winner Laragh started a journey toward the May 1 Kentucky Oaks with a three-furlong work on Monday at Palm Meadows training center. She covered the distance in :36.45 for trainer John Terranova.
Her trainer said there is no definite target for the first start of the year for the filly who finished third to Stardom Bound in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita.
“She looks great,” said Terranova. “Our main goal is the Kentucky Oaks, so a race like the Ashland (at Keeneland) could be a good spot to bring her back.”