Saturday, Feb. 7, Santa Anita
The Low-Down: This year the Las Virgenes marks the return of 2-year-old filly superstar STARDOM BOUND. The aptly named gray filly capped off a brilliant juvenile campaign with a mind-blowing Breeders' Cup win. Looking back on her two-year-old season, it's hard to believe she actually lost two races. That first loss came in her debut when she spotted the field a head start after a bad break. The race was only 5 1/2 furlongs, though she came flying and missed by a nose. In her next start, she broke slow again and it led to another second-place finish. That is where the losing ended and the brilliance began.
She whipped track announcer Trevor Denman into his high-pitched, excited voice with the move she made to win the Del Mar Debutante. She took down the Grade 1 Oak Leaf in a similar fashion. Then came the big event. On Breeders' Cup day she again spotted the field a head start. Jockey Mike Smith took his time with her at the back of the pack. Then, when the time came, he seemed to care less about saving ground with STARDOM BOUND. He took the scenic route and -- in the blink of an eye -- 'STARDOM was running clear of a helpless field. Oh my! I almost forgot that there are eight other fillies signed on to run in the Las Virgenes.
Our Eyes: From a workout perspective, STARDOM BOUND has returned the way she left, according to Horseplayerpro.com Santa Anita-based clocker Toby Turrell. "The champ has returned with her mind on business for new trainer Bobby Frankel," Toby says. "On January 25, I had her in :59.20, 1:11.80. Her ears were straight up and she was basically in a canter. The star was acting like a star."
Even in her greatness, I guess I have to talk about at least one other runner. The Ron Ellis trainee NAVIGATOR appears to be going in the right direction. Checking in with Toby again, he comments, "Lighter made, athletic filly is doing excellent right now. On Jan. 31, I had her in 1:12.0. Victor Espinoza was in the saddle. In her morning gallops, she is all business."
PINKARELLA may be the most intriguing filly in this race. This girl is speed on top of speed. When a runner like STARDOM BOUND gets beat, it is usually at the hands of a speed horse who gets away from the field. We have to remember this is horse racing. Strange things can and will happen.
The Bottom Line: It's hard to imagine STARDOM BOUND getting beat. She towers over this field in many ways. For those who want to throw down a couple bucks on the possibility of a monster upset, PINKARELLA is the filly I would use. At least you know she should be clear of trouble while winging out on the lead. California fans, don't forget to check out Toby Turrell's free, in-depth analysis of Saturday's G2 Strub at Horseplayerpro.com and Jeremy Plonk's G2 Lewis Memorial Stakes insights in ESPN.com's "Countdown to the Crown" series.
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