11/25/2009 1:00AM

Stardom Bound's year hasn't followed script

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - At this time last year, it would not have been preposterous to think that in 2009 a 3-year-old filly could go undefeated, win a Triple Crown race, and perhaps beat older males. It would, however, have been preposterous to think that filly would be someone other than Stardom Bound.

But in a 3-year-old division dominated by Rachel Alexandra - who went 8 for 8, including a victory in the Preakness and against older males in the Woodward at Saratoga - Stardom Bound has been relegated to a bit player after being the champion 2-year-old filly of 2008. While Rachel Alexandra is engaged in an off-the-track battle for Horse of the Year with Zenyatta, Stardom Bound quietly returns to the track in Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 Gazelle at Aqueduct.

Stardom Bound has not raced since April 4, when she finished third as the 4-5 favorite in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland. A lot has happened since then. Charlie Cono, Stardom Bound's original owner, has died. Christopher Paasch, Stardom Bound's original trainer, has gotten out of the game. Bobby Frankel, who trained Stardom Bound at the beginning of 2009, died earlier this month. Richard Dutrow Jr., Stardom Bound's current trainer, is on suspension, meaning the filly will be saddled Saturday by Juan Rodriguez.

Finally, in perhaps the biggest part of this saga, Stardom Bound's current owners, Michael Iavarone's IEAH Stables and David Lanzman, are suing each other.

Nine days after Stardom Bound won the 2008 Juvenile Fillies, her third consecutive Grade 1 victory, Cono put her in the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky mixed sale. IEAH purchased her for $5.7 million, outbidding Frank Stronach and Cono, who stopped at $4 million to buy her back. Iavarone said he was hoping to get Stardom Bound for between $4.5 million and $5 million.

"It comes down to when you want a horse badly enough, sometimes you pay a little bit more," Iavarone said. "I think we wanted her badly. For what Rachel Alexandra did for racing this year, our hopes were that Stardom Bound was going to be the Rachel Alexandra of this year."

Following IEAH's purchase, Stardom Bound was scheduled to go to Dutrow. But since she had won two Grade 1 races at Santa Anita, Dutrow convinced Iavarone to send Stardom Bound to Frankel in Southern California, where the first two Grade 1 races of the year for 3-year-old fillies were to be run.

In February, Stardom Bound won the Las Virgenes off a layoff of 106 days. One month later, in the Santa Anita Oaks, Stardom Bound got up to win by only a nose, an ominous sign to Iavarone.

"I thought she struggled pretty good in that race," Iavarone said. "Her class got her there; maybe she was starting to show signs that she needed to get a little bit of a break."

Iavarone said he was hoping the Santa Anita Oaks would be a springboard to a start against males in the Santa Anita Derby and a shot at the Kentucky Derby. But the decision was made to keep Stardom Bound with fillies and run her in the Ashland at Keeneland. Sent off at 3-5, Stardom Bound managed a third-place finish. After that race, she was sent to the farm for a freshening.

"She was telling everybody that this is enough for now," Dutrow said Nov. 13. "She wasn't happy after the race. I thought everything was okay going into the race."

A week before the Ashland, IEAH Stable sold a quarter-interest in Stardom Bound to David Lanzman, who a day earlier had sold half-interest in I Want Revenge to IEAH. On the day Stardom Bound finished third in the Ashland, I Want Revenge won the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct to establish himself as one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby. But on the morning of the Derby, I Want Revenge was scratched because of an ankle injury.

In the subsequent months, Lanzman sued IEAH for breach of contract in connection with the purchase of I Want Revenge. IEAH filed a countersuit against Lanzman claiming he withheld information about I Want Revenge's injuries before the Derby.

Iavarone claims that I Want Revenge had his ankle injected multiple times in the weeks between the Wood and the Derby.

"Nobody ever told us anything was wrong with the horse," Iavarone said. "If you look at the way we treated Stardom Bound as far as when we knew something was wrong with her, we stopped on her."

Lanzman, who is based in Southern California, declined to comment for this story.

As the owners filed lawsuits against each other, Stardom Bound was recuperating on Mike Nevin's Emerald Farm in Kentucky. She was shipped to Dutrow's Aqueduct barn in July and returned to the work tab Aug. 19. She worked three times before Dutrow became concerned with the way she was pushing off behind. He had some hind-end work done on her and returned her to training in mid-September.

"It took us a little bit of time to get it straight, but once we got it straight, now she's very good," he said. "We lost too much time trying to figure out exactly what went wrong and how to fix it to run her in the Breeders' Cup."

When a start in the Breeders' Cup was nixed, the Gazelle, a race moved from September to the end of November, became the target. The Gazelle will be Stardom Bound's first race on dirt; all of her previous starts came on a synthetic surface.

"Exercise riders have told me that she gets over the dirt better than the synthetic," Iavarone said. "The only thing that we need to worry about in this race is her coming off a layoff going 1 1/8 miles; that's the million-dollar question. She seems ready."