Keeneland

The burden of Stardom

It seems improbable that a fifth straight Grade I triumph could ever be met with a tinge of disappointment.

But champion Stardom Bound has almost become the victim of her own success.

After having her way with the competition in her four previous victories, the fact Stardom Bound had to scrap just to get her nose down in time to win the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks on March 7 was seen by some as a bit of a letdown.

But as the gray filly heads into Saturday's Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, her connections would like to remind those who may have jumped off the bandwagon how impressive her latest triumph truly was.

Stardom Bound not only had to make her move on the extreme outside around the final turn, but she had to shift in midstretch in order to avoid a horse that was veering out.

"I think the fact she has won all these Grade I's in a row and the bar is set so high for her that people will say it wasn't her best race," Michael Sherack, vice president of investor relations for majority owner IEAH Stables, said Wednesday. "But if it were a different horse who won that race in that fashion people would say what a tremendous performance it was.

"Maybe it wasn't her best race, but one thing you could tell is she did not want to get beat."

Part of the fallout from Stardom Bound's narrow win in the Santa Anita Oaks was that IEAH opted not to try her against the boys in the Santa Anita Derby and will — for the time being — keep her with her own sex.

While she has been the class of her division, Stardom Bound will not have a cakewalk on her hands in the Ashland. Among those in the nine-horse field include Dream Empress, winner of the Grade I Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland last October; undefeated What a Pear, and Hooh Why, who was third in the Santa Anita Oaks.

The 11⁄16-mile Ashland will also mark Stardom Bound's first start outside of California.

"(Trainer) Rick Dutrow said she has really taken to the Keeneland track well," Sherack said. "I think everyone was optimistic (before the Santa Anita Oaks) that if she showed she was dominant against fillies we would give her a shot against the boys. But this is a very good group of colts this year and it seemed like aiming for the (Kentucky) Oaks would be a more sensible route to go."

Stardom Bound's fan club did gain one notable member this week as IEAH sold a 25 percent interest in her to owner and breeder David Lanzman.

"We were just talking about partying with them at the Oaks and one thing led to another and here we are," said Lanzman, who also sold IEAH a 50 percent interest in his Gotham Stakes winner I Want Revenge this week.

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