10/23/2008 11:00PM

Stardom Bound has no margin for error


ARCADIA, Calif. - Zenyatta is regarded as the most likely winner of any of the 14 Breeders' Cup races to be run this weekend. Stardom Bound is regarded by many as the second most likely winner.

Unlike Zenyatta, who is undefeated and faces just seven challengers in Friday's $2 million Ladies Classic, Stardom Bound has lost twice and faces a deep field in Friday's $2 million Juvenile Fillies. While Stardom Bound is a deserving favorite, her jockey, Mike Smith, knows victory won't be achieved by just showing up.

"It's one of the best Juvenile Fillies I've seen, to tell you the truth,'' Smith said Tuesday. "It looks every bit as tough as the [Juvenile], if not tougher. You have more consistent horses. If she gets the opportunity to run and performs like she can, she's definitely the horse to beat, but she's got to definitely do it. She can't run her B race.''

Stardom Bound, a beautiful gray daughter of Tapit, will be favored off her A-plus victories in the Del Mar Debutante and Oak Leaf, in which she launched wide, powerful rallies from last. In the Juvenile Fillies, run at the same 1 1/16 miles as the Oak Leaf, Stardom Bound meets 12 rivals that include the winners of the Frizette (Sky Diva), Matron (Doremifasollatido), Alcibiades (Dream Empress), Arlington-Washington Lassie (C.S. Silk), Sorrento (Evita Argentina), and Mazarine (Van Lear Rose).

Favorites have won 14 of the 24 Juvenile Fillies, including the last six. Stardom Bound may not have to improve to continue the trend, but there are signs that she is moving forward. On Oct. 18, Smith went to Hollywood Park to watch Stardom Bound breeze and was in awe of what he saw.

"She looked even better, she's coming around at the right time,'' Smith said. "She seems to be putting weight on, not losing it. To watch her work you would have thought she went way too slow, then you look down on your watch and it says 59-and-change. She's got some stride on her.''

As well as trainer Christopher Paasch believes his filly is doing, he remembers the 1990 Remington Park Futurity in which he sent out 1-5 favorite Gold Coast Express. He finished last.

"So I don't take anything for granted,'' Paasch said.

For owner Charles Cono and Paasch, the Juvenile Fillies will be somewhat bittersweet. Both men, who are battling illnesses, figure to be out of the game by early next year. Stardom Bound is scheduled to be sold at the Fasig-Tipton auction on Nov. 2.

Sky Diva may be the biggest threat to Stardom Bound. After whipping three maidens at Delaware in the slop, Sky Diva rallied from next-to-last to win the Grade 1 Frizette under a hand ride from Ramon Dominguez.

"We know we're going up against a very good filly in Stardom Bound, but I couldn't ask my filly to be coming into the race any better,'' trainer Steve Klesaris said. "I wouldn't trade places with anybody.''

There appears to be ample speed in the field to set things up for Stardom Bound, Sky Diva, or even Alcibiades winner Dream Empress, who could be let go at a price despite winning her last two starts.

Palacio de Amor set the pace in the Oak Leaf and has twice finished second to Stardom Bound. Be Smart hung on to be second in the Alcibiades after contesting early fractions. C.S. Silk won the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Lassie in front-running fashion.

Doremifasllatido won the Grade 2 Matron at Belmont and trained sharply over the Pro-Ride surface on Oct. 17. She will have to overcome post 13, though. In 2003, the last time the Breeders' Cup was here, Halfbridled won the Juvenile Fillies from post 14.

Evita Argentina, trained by John Sadler, defeated Stardom Bound in the Grade 3 Sorrento at Del Mar in early August. But Sadler knows his filly is facing a different Stardom Bound this time.

"We beat her in the Sorrento [when] she was a maiden, but she's leapt forward every race, in my opinion,'' Sadler said. "Stardom Bound looks prohibitive; you just got to hope it's not her day.''