03/09/2009 12:00AM

Filly gets reality check

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Benoit & Associates
Stardom Bound, all out to win the Santa Anita Oaks on Saturday, will not likely take on males in the Santa Anita Derby as once planned.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Though she won her fifth straight Grade 1 race on Saturday, this time in the Santa Anita Oaks, Stardom Bound just did get by after racing extremely wide, a performance that her connections have deemed insufficient to continue on the road to the May 2 Kentucky Derby.

So, unless something dramatically different were to unfold in the next two months, Stardom Bound will continue to race against fillies, and her objective the first weekend in May at Churchill Downs will be in the May 1 Kentucky Oaks, according to Michael Iavarone, the co-president of the IEAH Stables partnership that owns Stardom Bound.

"She didn't take a significant lurch forward," Iavarone said Monday morning from his office in Garden City, N.Y. "We didn't see enough for her to take on the boys, especially the quality of the boys who will be in the Santa Anita Derby, like Pioneerof the Nile."

Instead of running in the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 4, Stardom Bound could run that day in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, Iavarone said.

Only three fillies have won the Kentucky Derby: Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980), and Winning Colors (1988).

"If she were to run a race in the Ashland that would blow our minds, I guess we could re-discuss it, but right now, the Kentucky Oaks is the goal," Iavarone said. "We want to get her as good as we can get her. We think she can do better. It's strange to walk away initially disappointed from a race in which she wins her fifth Grade 1 in a row, and have to explain why she didn't bury the field. Are we seeing the other 3-year-old fillies step up dramatically, or are we staying the same or slightly regressing? We need to understand why we're not seeing her leap forward."

Iavarone said he would talk to Bobby Frankel and Rick Dutrow Jr., who are to share the training of Stardom Bound this year, and map out a plan. Iavarone said he did not know when Stardom Bound, currently trained by Frankel, would be turned over to Dutrow.

"It's up to those two," Iavarone said. 'To me, it's one and the same, whichever one is babysitting. First and foremost is taking care of the filly, not who gets credit.

"If they want," Iavarone said, laughing, "they can put my name down. I'll take the credit."

Stardom Bound got a moderate Beyer Speed Figure of 87 in the Santa Anita Oaks, which was one of two significant races for 3-year-olds on Saturday.

The other important race was the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, and the result could not have been more dramatically different than that of the Oaks. In a powerhouse performance, I Want Revenge crushed his rivals in the Gotham, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 113 in his first start on dirt, and first outside of Southern California.

"I felt the horse was going to run one of the biggest races of his career so far," Jeff Mullins, who trains I Want Revenge, said Monday morning from Hollywood Park. "I didn't realize it was going to be that big. What really impressed me was he came back and he wasn't even breathing hard."

Asked if he feared I Want Revenge had peaked too soon, Mullins said, "No, not at all."

I Want Revenge was scheduled to return to California on Tuesday, but Mullins said he would head to Aqueduct again for the Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial on April 4. The Wood is on the main track, while the Gotham was run on the inner dirt track.

Mullins said I Want Revenge would do all his training for the Wood at Hollywood Park.

"I figure we could get two decent works in him - we might be able to squeeze three - but the way he ran, the way he came back, I'm not sure he's going to need that much," Mullins said.

Like I Want Revenge, the Gotham's second-place finisher, Imperial Council, will return to New York for the Wood and do his training elsewhere. On Monday, Imperial Council arrived at the Payson Park training center in Florida, where he trained before the Gotham, and where he will prepare for the Wood.

"I thought he ran fine," said Imperial Council's trainer, Shug McGaughey. "He was a little further back than I thought he'd be. He didn't have much chance being that far back in a 48 half over that little track. When he gets on the bigger track we should be all right. This wasn't a win-or-else race for us."

While last weekend was fairly light in terms of Derby preps, this Saturday will be sensory overload. There are four races with significant Derby implications, all at 1 1/16 miles, and three of the elite contenders for the Derby - Friesan Fire, Pioneerof the Nile, and Old Fashioned - are scheduled to compete.

Friesan Fire heads a field of 10 - including Flying Pegasus, Giant Oak, Papa Clem, and Patena - that was entered on Monday in the Grade 2, $600,000 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.

Friesan Fire's trainer, Larry Jones, will send out Old Fashioned, the pro-tem favorite for the Kentucky Derby, in the Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn.

At Santa Anita, Pioneerof the Nile will try to retain his position as the best in the West in the Grade 2, $200,000 San Felipe Stakes.

And General Quarters and Hello Broadway are expected to head the field in the Grade 3, $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby.

- additional reporting by David Grening and Mike Welsch