02/06/2009 12:00AM

Stardom Bound tries to buck trends

Barbara D. Livingston
Expectations are high this year for champion Stardom Bound, who makes her '09 debut Saturday in the Las Virgenes.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Making predictions for a reigning 2-year-old champion filly can be a dangerous trade. In recent years, some have gone on to brilliant campaigns at 3. Others have not figured in the national picture.

This does not scare trainer Christopher Paasch one bit.

A man with a bold personality, Paasch is predicting big things for 2008 title holder Stardom Bound. He trained the filly last year, and then watched her sell for $5.7 million to IEAH Stables in Kentucky in November. Stardom Bound is now trained by Bobby Frankel, who is preparing her for Saturday's $300,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita.

In the Las Virgenes, her 2009 debut, Stardom Bound will attempt to win her fourth consecutive Grade 1 race. Paasch, the most knowledgeable Stardom Bound fan in the land, expects many more such victories.

"I hope she wins 10 more and I can say I was part of it," Paasch said. "I think she could be one of the greats, if she stays sound."

Whoa, Frankel says. Not so fast. He wants to see Stardom Bound make a few starts before making any grand proclamations.

"When she wins, I'll let you know if she's exceptional," Frankel said. "She looks like a real good filly, but you see a lot of superstars as 2-year-olds. Horses mature and catch up to them."

History is not necessarily on Stardom Bound's side. While Indian Blessing, the 2007 2-year-old champion filly, returned to earn the title of 2008 champion female sprinter, many others in recent years have not lived up to expectation. Storm Flag Flying (the 2002 champion 2-year-old filly), Halfbridled (2003), and Folklore (2005) failed to win at 3. Storm Flag Flying did go on to win two graded stakes at 4.

Sweet Catomine, the 2004 champion 2-year-old filly, made just three starts at 3, including a win in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks in 2005. The last 2-year-old champion filly to repeat as the 3-year-old champion filly was Silverbulletday in 1998-99.

Mike Smith, Stardom Bound's jockey, does not feel Stardom Bound has peaked.

"Sometimes between 2 and 3, they don't go on," he said. "She seems like she's stronger. I hope she goes on. I've been watching her and it looks like she's grown."

Stardom Bound was the obvious choice for a championship following her late summer and fall campaign. After finishing second in a maiden race in July and the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar, she won three consecutive Grade 1 stakes.

Stardom Bound won the Del Mar Debutante at seven furlongs by 4 1/4 lengths on Sept. 1, the Oak Leaf Stakes at 1 1/16 miles by 3 1/2 lengths on Sept. 27, and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles by 1 1/2 lengths on Oct. 24.

The latter race clinched the title. In each victory, she swooped past most of the field on the turn with a wide move, took the lead in midstretch, and won comfortably under Smith. The Juvenile Fillies was slightly different because she hit the front before the eighth pole and then maintained her advantage.

"She was all out" in the Breeders' Cup, Frankel said. Smith "moved a little soon on her and she was all out, but so were the ones behind her."

Smith said he had to move to avoid being carried too wide.

"I hit the front a little early," Smith said. "I may have moved a sixteenth too early. I had to. Maybe I would have gotten there, but I would have been awful wide."

Since Stardom Bound switched stables, Paasch has occasionally spoken with Frankel about her status. Paasch knows the filly is in outstanding hands with the Hall of Fame trainer.

"If she's not perfect, he won't run her," Paasch said.

Paasch has 13 horses in his stable. He says he has no regrets in recommending to previous owner Charles Cono that he sell Stardom Bound. Cono was one of the underbidders at the November sale.

"She was on top of the world," Paasch said of the sale. "She was probably worth the most she'll be worth that day.

"I can't wait to see her run," he said. "I'll be cheering as loud as anyone."