03/07/2009 1:00AM

Stardom Bound going for next level


ARCADIA, Calif. - Stardom Bound already has proven that she is the best filly of her generation. It's a position last year's champion 2-year-old filly can solidify on Saturday, when she figures to be heavily favored in the Grade 1, $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks. In an otherwise wide-open pick six sequence, she represents a potential free bingo space.

But the subplot to the Oaks is what comes next. Should Stardom Bound soundly beat her nine rivals in the 1 1/16-mile Oaks, it is likely she will come back against males on April 4 in the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, which in turn could lead to a start in the Kentucky Derby May 2.

"If she doesn't take a leap forward, we'll go back to the drawing board," said Michael Iavarone, the co-president of the IEAH Stables partnership, which owns Stardom Bound. "But if she does leap forward, she belongs."

Trainer Bobby Frankel is expecting Stardom Bound to improve significantly over her victory in last month's Las Virgenes Stakes, which was her first start in 3 1/2 months.

"I think last time I didn't have her ready to run her best, just enough to win," Frankel said. "She's ready to run her best race now."

The Oaks is ready-made for Stardom Bound. She has won four straight races, and benefits by the conditions of the Oaks, in which all entrants carry 122 pounds, whereas she gave weight to her rivals last time. There is ample speed to set up her late run. The only concern, and it's a mild one, is that her jockey, Mike Smith, will have to extricate Stardom Bound from the rail at some point.

"Once in a while a great filly comes along that can compete with the boys, and I think she's one of them," Smith said.

In the giddy aftermath of the Las Virgenes, Iavarone said he wanted Stardom Bound to head straight to the Santa Anita Derby. But Frankel wanted to take a more conservative route.

"Bobby came to us and said in his eyes it was better for her to go in the Oaks," Iavarone said. "He said she didn't get much out of the Las Virgenes. She only ran a sixteenth of a mile. He thought she'd benefit from a race between the Las Virgenes and the Santa Anita Derby."

Haka and Saucey Evening, who finished second and third in the Las Virgenes, are not in the Oaks. Nan, fourth in the Las Virgenes at 35-1, is among Stardom Bound's rivals.

Will O Way lost twice to Stardom Bound last year, but has won 2 of her last 3 starts, including the California Oaks at Golden Gate on Jan. 31.

Beltene is unbeaten in three starts, all around one turn. She most recently won the Sunshine Millions Oaks here on Jan. 24.

Miss Silver Brook is also stretching out. In just two starts, she owns a win against maidens and a late-running fourth in the La Habra Stakes on the hillside turf course.

"She's screaming to go long," said her jockey, Alex Solis. "She's really talented."

Burg Burg has won two straight. This will be her first start on a synthetic surface after three grass tries. She figures to be the early pacesetter.

Hooh Why was second to Beltene in the Sunshine Millions Oaks in her first start on this circuit.