10/08/2008 11:00PM

Sky Diva threat from East to Stardom Bound


By virtue of her runaway scores in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf and Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante, Stardom Bound is unquestionably the top 2-year-old filly in the West, if not the entire country, and is likely to be a solid favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. On the basis of her overwhelming victory in last Saturday’s Grade 1 Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park, Sky Diva has emerged as the top 2-year-old filly in the East and has a good chance to be second choice in the betting in the Juvenile Fillies. They might be separated by 3,000 miles right now, but they came close early this year to being stablemates.

Stardom Bound was sold for $375,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales auction in the spring.

“We tried to buy Stardom Bound at the OBS sale last March,” said trainer Steve Klesaris, who is also a minority partner in ownership with Jeff Puglisi, under whose Puglisi Racing banner Sky Diva races. “She was on our list to buy, but she went for more than we were prepared to go for. I think we went as high as $325,000, and stopped. There were others coming up we were interested in.

“She made our ‘A’ list,” of potential purchases, Puglisi echoed. “She’s a tremendous filly. We thought she might go for $250,000 to $300,000. Obviously, Chris liked her a lot, too.”

That would be Chris Paasch, the trainer who made the successful winning bid for Stardom Bound on behalf of owner Charles Cono.

“I wasn’t aware that they were bidding on her, too,” Paasch said. “But I don’t care. I was going to $600,000 on her if I had to.”

Something else these two camps share beside similar tastes in horses is admiration for the opposing filly.

“Sky Diva really ran impressively,” Paasch said of the Frizette. “She looks like another who is getting better with every race.

“I really liked her the other day,” Klesaris said of Sky Diva, who was making only her second start after crushing maidens at Delaware Park. “But until they go out and do it against better company, you just don’t want to say it. But all the while she told me she was a real quality filly, and she won the other day like she was in a different league from the rest of them. This filly is meant to run as far as they run races. She’s the goods.”

Not surprisingly, Klesaris has had more than a passing interest in Stardom Bound. He has watched her closely, and is duly impressed.

“Oh, she’s very talented, and has dominated out there,” he said. “And we’ll be facing her on her surface, so she has the home-court edge. Nevertheless, if I was Stardom Bound, I’d be worried about Sky Diva.”

Paasch doesn’t seem worried about too much, least of all the pressures of having the race favorite.

“I’ve been told we might be 4-5,” he said. “But I’ll tell you something. I once ran a 1-5 shot in a stake at Remington against Oklahoma-breds, Gold Crest Express in the very first Remington Park Futurity, and ran last. So I don’t put a lot into that. But she will be the favorite, and deservedly so. She’s the only multiple Grade 1 winner in the race.”

Paasch also doesn’t seem fazed at the prospect of this being his last race with Stardom Bound should she meet her reserve next month in the Fasig-Tipton select breeding stock sale.

“I’m just blessed to be back in this business,” he said. “I was supposed to be dead in 1995. I’d been battling cancer since ’87, and I was laying in Sloan-Kettering in ’95 with a doctor telling me to get my affairs in order. Honestly, I’m so lucky to be alive.”

The degree of difficulty in this Juvenile Fillies, already high thanks to Stardom Bound and Sky Diva, could get considerably higher should Rainbow View participate. Rainbow View has been so impressive winning all four of her starts in England that the esteemed rival trainer Luca Cumani was quoted as saying she is the best 2-year-old filly he has ever seen. Most recently, Rainbow View romped in the Group 1 Moon Valley Stud Fillies Mile at Ascot, a Win and You’re In race for the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Rainbow View’s connections seem to have no interest in that event, but are strongly considering a go on Pro-Ride in the Juvenile Fillies.