02/07/2009 1:00AM

Champion has more to prove


ARCADIA, Calif. - The 2008 champion 2-year-old filly Stardom Bound still has plenty left to prove, starting Saturday in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita.

"She has to prove that she's still got game," said Michael Iavarone, co-president of IEAH Stables, the group that purchased Stardom Bound for $5.7 million after she dominated the summer-fall California stakes program by winning three Grade 1's.

Based on solid workouts and glowing reports from new trainer Bobby Frankel, Stardom Bound still has game. The question for 2009 is, how much?

Because if Stardom Bound takes care of business against fillies on Saturday, she will up the ante on April 4 when she tackles colts in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.

"If she wins, there's not a lot left to prove" in the filly division, Iavarone said. "And the Santa Anita Derby would determine the path we take. We want to see how competitive she is now, against boys."

And if she becomes the first filly since Winning Colors in 1988 to win the Santa Anita Derby, "then you'd have to consider the Kentucky Derby," Iavarone said.

While the sky is the limit for deep-closing Stardom Bound, first things come first. Stardom Bound is one of nine fillies entered in the Las Virgenes, including rapidly improving Navigator, restricted stakes winner Saucey Evening, and lightly raced Haka.

Her main rivals have all raced at the meet, but Stardom Bound will start for the first time since a crushing win Oct. 24 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Frankel was asked if she is vulnerable.

"I would say she's definitely vulnerable, any time you're 3 1/2 months away from a race," Frankel said. "She's probably going to be 80 percent fit. I'm just hoping that's enough and that her class carries her through."

It should be plenty. Stardom Bound's workout pattern includes only one oddity, a five-furlong workout Feb. 1 in a slow 1:02 that fueled speculation Stardom Bound needed a start.

"Everyone's concerned about her last work, but I wanted her to go slow," Frankel said. "It was by design, and she went the last eighth in 11. I wouldn't bet against her."

Mike Smith, who rode Stardom Bound in all five her starts last year for trainer Chris Paasch and owner Charles Cono, will be back aboard for the Las Virgenes.

Iavarone said a decisive win by Stardom Bound would allow IEAH and Frankel to skip the Santa Anita Oaks on March 7 and train her into the Santa Anita Derby. That would open the door for IEAH-owned Laragh, winner of the Hollywood Starlet, to return to California for the Santa Anita Oaks.

"In a perfect world, Laragh would run in the Santa Anita Oaks, and Stardom Bound would run in the Santa Anita Derby," Iavarone said.

Laragh recently returned to serious training.

"We're trying to get two fillies ready for the Oaks or Derby," Iavarone said.

In the Las Virgenes, Stardom Bound will run for the first time with a jockey wearing IEAH silks.

"I was looking for silks with a big bulls-eye on the back," Iavarone said.

The main rival for Stardom Bound is front-running Navigator, whose chances are seemingly compromised by the presence of sprinter Pinkarella.

Century Park, Nan, African Skies, and Toro Bonito also entered.