Stakes Advance 2/4/09 - Champion Stardom Bound, Pioneerof the Nile Take Aim On Potential Santa Anita Derby Clash in Separate Stakes Saturday

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 4, 2009) – Four graded stakes races on Saturday at Santa Anita include a pair that could lead to a highly compelling clash in the April 4 Santa Anita Derby as 2-year-old filly champion Stardom Bound and California’s most accomplished male Triple Crown prospect, Pioneerof the Nile, make their 3-year-old debuts.

Stardom Bound, so dominant as a juvenile filly in 2008 that she commanded a sales price of $5.7 million in November, makes her first start for IEAH Stables and Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel in the 27th running of the Grade I, $300,000 Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile.

Following breathtaking last-to-first moves that successively captured three Grade I stakes for 2-year-old fillies, the Del Mar Debutante, Oak Leaf Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Stardom Bound was entered in the Fasig-Tipton November select sale by 84-year-old owner Charles Cono. After concluding the blockbuster transaction, IEAH Stables and partners promptly suggested they would target a meeting with males in the Santa Anita Derby.

Provided the stunning gray filly takes care of business as expected on Saturday, the winner of that day’s 71st running of the Grade II, $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles is likely to be among her projected Santa Anita Derby opposition, and Pioneerof the Nile is expected to be the Lewis favorite.

Making his first start for Triple Crown-devotee Bob Baffert in Hollywood Park’s $750,000 CashCall Futurity on Dec. 20, Zayat Stables’ Pioneerof the Nile emerged with a thrilling nose triumph over I Want Revenge to dramatically elevate his standing among Kentucky Derby hopefuls.

His competition in Saturday’s field of nine includes I Want Revenge as well as Shafted, an eye-catching winner of his Santa Anita debut for Canadian-based trainer Mark Casse on Jan. 2. Eight fillies will take on Stardom Bound in the Las Virgenes as she purportedly journeys toward an attempt to become the first female to take the Santa Anita Derby since eventual Kentucky Derby champion Winning Colors in 1988.

The paralleling events for 3-year-olds have siphoned attention from the historic Grade II, $250,000 Strub Stakes at 1 1/8 miles for 4-year-olds on what traditionally is known as Strub Stakes Day at Santa Anita. The Grade III, $100,000 Thunder Road Handicap at one mile on turf constitutes the fourth graded stakes race on the stellar ten-race program with first post at 12:30 p.m.

The 62nd running of the Strub, with Affirmed, Spectacular Bid and Alysheba among its past winners, attracted a lineup of 13. Leading contenders include San Pasqual Handicap winner Cowboy Cal, Sir Beaufort Stakes winner Gio Ponti and San Fernando Stakes winner Nownownow. Monterey Jazz, who went wire-to-wire while defeating Tiago by 4 ½ lengths in last year’s Strub, is the 118-pound high weight among ten entrants in the Thunder Road.

In preparation for the Las Virgenes, Stardom Bound has been training well for Frankel. The daughter of Tapit joined his barn after being trained by Christopher Paasch during her five-race career as a 2-year-old that generated earnings of $1,420,600 for then-owner Cono.

Frankel will continue to use Mike Smith aboard Stardom Bound. The Hall of Fame jockey has been her companion in all five starts that include two fast-closing seconds in sprints to commence her career. After Stardom Bound rallied from 13th and last to capture the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at 1 ½ miles, Smith termed the performance “phenomenal.”

Among those named to challenge Stardom Bound on Saturday are California-bred Saucey Evening, a multiple-stakes winner who has won 3 of 6 starts for earnings of $250,390, and Pinkarella, a stylish maiden winner by 5 ¼ lengths at 6 ½ furlongs on Dec. 21 at Hollywood Park. Stardom Bound will carry high weight of 122 pounds and break from post position No. 5.

The complete field for the Las Virgenes Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Navigator, Victor Espinoza, 116; African Skies, Joseph Talamo, 116; Century Park, Tyler Baze, 118; Nan, Corey Nakatani, 116; Stardom Bound, Mike Smith, 122; Haka, Rafael Bejarano, 116; Saucey Evening, Garrett Gomez, 118; Toro Bonito, John Velasquez, 116, and Pinkarella, Joel Rosario, 116.

Baffert, who has started 17 horses in the Kentucky Derby while winning three, is perfect so far with Pioneerof the Nile after assuming her training prior to the CashCall Futurity at the direction of owner Ahmed Zayat. The homebred son of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker came along at a fortuitous time for Baffert, as his 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Midshipman was sold to Darley Stable and shipped to Dubai following the Breeders’ Cup in late October.

Garrett Gomez, aboard for the CashCall Futurity, will again ride Pioneerof the Nile as the colt continues to develop under Baffert. “Physically, he’s still a little immature,” said the 56-year-old trainer. “He’s a late foal, but I can see a difference in him now. He’s really maturing in his mind.” Having begun his career in the East for trainer Bill Mott, Pioneerof the Nile was not a precocious youngster. He enters the Lewis with a 2-0-1 record in five starts for earnings of $544,200, largely attributable to his last race. As for Saturday’s assignment, “He’s ready,” said Baffert. I Want Revenge, David J. Lanzman Racing Stables’ homebred son of Stephen Got Even, will be rejoined by jockey Joseph Talamo as he attempts to avenge his nose loss to Pioneerof the Nile. The colt, trained by Jeff Mullins, shows a 1-1-3 record in five races for earnings of $192,000. Joel Rosario rides Shafted, a son of Mineshaft who displayed a quick turn-of-foot while victorious by 2 ½ lengths in his Santa Anita debut on Jan. 2. In allowance company, Shafted covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.68.

The complete field for the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Bittel Road, Velazquez, 122; Pioneerof the Nile, Gomez, 122; Papa Clem, Bejarano, 115; I Want Revenge, Talamo, 115; Mark S the Cooler, Nakatani, 115; Oil Man, Smith, 115; Brother Keith, Tyler Baze, 115; Shafted, Rosario, 117, and Charlie’s Moment, Jose Valdivia Jr., 117. Gio Ponti will carry high weight of 123 pounds in the deep and contentious Strub field. The Tale of the Cat colt tops the competitors in earnings with $820,800 for Castleton Lyons from a 5-2-0 mark in nine starts. Gomez rides for trainer Christophe Clement. His victory in the Sir Beaufort, originally scheduled for grass, was his first on a surface other than turf. Gio Ponti adapted well to Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface. “He’s a very talented horse,” Gomez said following the Sir Beaufort, “and sometimes talented horses can run on anything.”

Nownownow, sent off at odds of 18-1 in the San Fernando, responded with a devastating performance while racing in blinkers for the first time. Talamo will be back aboard as will the blinkers. Trained by Patrick Biancone for Fab Oak Stable, the son of Whywhywhy has posted a 3-3-1 record in 13 starts for earnings of $781,024.

Cowboy Cal has finished first five times and second three times in ten career starts for trainer Todd Pletcher while earning $597,708 for Robert and Janice McNair. His only off-the-board finishes came in his debut and in the 2008 Kentucky Derby. John Velazquez rides Cowboy Cal, who is weighted at 121 pounds along with Nownownow.

The complete field for the Strub Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Dixie Chatter, Tyler Baze, 117; Blue Exit, Smith, 117; Trevor’s Clever, Michael Baze, 117; Victory Pete, Chantal Sutherland, 117; Gio Ponti, Gomez, 123; Medjool, Alex Solis, 117; Nownownow, Talamo, 121; Cowboy Cal, Velazquez, 121; Wishful Tomcat, Rosario, 119; Cause, Martin Garcia, 117; Cherokee Artist, Valdivia, 117; Wesley, Javier Castellano, 119, and Slew’s Tiznow, Bejarano, 119. Following an eight-length score in the Grade III Texas Mile at Lone Star Park in April of last year, Thunder Road high-weight Monterey Jazz went to the sidelines with a foot injury. The 5-year-old, trained by Craig Dollase for A and R Stables and Class Racing, returned to run poorly when favored in Aqueduct’s Grade I Cigar Mile Handicap on Nov. 29. He finished third in an optional claimer on turf at Santa Anita on Dec. 27. David Flores rides Monterey Jazz, who took Santa Anita’s 2007 Sir Beaufort on grass.

The complete field for the Thunder Road Handicap, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Mr Napper Tandy, Bejarano, 115; Ferneley, Espinoza, 116; Global Hunter, Valdivia, 117; Monterey Jazz, David Flores, 118; Yankee Bravo, Solis, 116; Shore Do, Talamo, 112; Dilemma, Gomez, 116; Becrux, Rosario, 117; Matto Mondo, Smith, 116, and Monba, Velazquez, 116. Scheduled as the sixth race, the Las Virgenes leads off the succession of stakes races followed by the Thunder Road, Lewis and Strub, which is the ninth. HRTV will televise the entire program. -30-