11/07/2008 12:00AM

Stardom Bound to race in California in '09

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She's coming baaack.

Though purchased last week at auction by the East Coast-based IEAH Stables for $5.7 million, three-time Grade 1 winner Stardom Bound will be heading back to Southern California to begin her 3-year-old campaign in 2009, her new connections said Friday.

Stardom Bound is currently at Three Chimneys Farm in Lexington, Ky. Her early-season target will be the Grade 1, $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks on March 9, but she could run before then in either the Grade 1 Las Virgenes on Feb. 9 or the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes on Jan. 5. All three races are at Santa Anita, where Stardom Bound won two Grade 1's.

"As soon as she's ready, we'll run her - we're not backing off on her," said Michael Iavarone, co-president of the International Equine Acquisitions Holdings Stable, which outbid Frank Stronach for Stardom Bound at Sunday's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November mixed sale.

Iavarone said that Mike Smith, who has ridden Stardom Bound in all five of her starts, will retain the mount.

Stardom Bound will undoubtedly earn an Eclipse Award as the nation's leading 2-year-old filly after winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, the Oak Leaf, and the Del Mar Debutante. She was owned by Charlie Cono and trained by Christopher Paasch, who is based at Hollywood Park.

But Cono and Paasch are on the verge of getting out of the game and put Stardom Bound through the auction ring. Cono, who initially bought Stardom Bound for $375,000, bid up to $4 million to keep her.

Though Stardom Bound will officially be trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., her training in California will be overseen by Bobby Frankel, who will stable Stardom Bound at Santa Anita.

"She loves the track out there," Dutrow said. "Frankel is the best horseman alive; he's going to be with her every day. He wants to help her out so much. I would love to be around her every day, but the best thing is to see her out in her own environment."

Though Iavarone said it is his intention to point Stardom Bound for the Kentucky Oaks, he left the door open a crack for a potential run at the Kentucky Derby, a race IEAH and Dutrow won last year with Big Brown.

"She'd have to impress the daylights out of us and everybody else," Iavarone said about a potential run at the Derby. "If she belongs there, we'll consider it."