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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Derby Fever Proves Distraction

Expecting to read the praises of the gritty win by Stardom Bound in the SA Oaks, I was surprised, and rather disappointed, to instead see it being framed in disappointment. So obsessed with the Kentucky Derby are we, that a race which I found to be easily amongst the most exhilarating of the year, was rather dismissively referred to by Jay Privman in the Form as a desperate nose win over a moderate group that left her connections soberly realistic about what could come next.

Before the race, the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 4, against males, was considered a strong possibility. Now...
In the LA Times, Bill Dwyre labeled Stardom Bound's victory as a "rocky win," and called it "dicey."

Dicey? This filly lagged behind a moderate pace, made her usual sweep around the final turn; this time conceding a tremendous amount of ground - four wide for a good portion of the turn, and a full seven wide turning for home. Whatsmore, she was carried two paths further outside by a drifting filly in deep stretch. Having lost her forward momentum if for just an instant, Stardom Bound appeared hopelessly beaten at that point. But she showed the class of a true champ, coming on again to surge to a courageous win, in a final sixteenth of 5.85 seconds.

Yes, Privman is factually correct to say that it was a "desperate nose win over a moderate group." Yet, if he didn't have the Derby in mind, I bet he would have framed it in a far more positive way. Personally, this performance will not cause me to move this filly down a single notch in my Derby rankings. But, forgetting that race for a moment if we may, it's truly sad and unfortunate if we are unable to fully appreciate an effort like this simply for what it was - a superb display of consistency, speed, courage and determination by a fantastic filly who, Derby or no Derby, deserves to rank as one of the sport's very few true stars.


Glimmerglass said...

I have a video clip from ESPN last year of Jay Privman being asked the chances of Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby two days before it went off. He was unflinchingly adamant in saying point blank she had utterly no chance of winning that race. So I'm not shocked he'd dimiss any filly in the context of taking on the boys in any race.

The IEAH folks have nothing to lose with racing SB in the SA Derby and seeing if she is up the challenge. If she does well then they get their answer and a fat check. If it doesn't work she'll just go to the Oaks and that will be that.

I will say though you can look back at Sweet Catomine who was very similar in size and style - she lagged back early in all races then whoosh! She flew past any field of fillies you could assemble with utter ease.

When she won the Santa Anita Oaks in 2005 'Sweet' did so with much less effort then Stardom Bound. Thus going to the SA Derby everyone was giddy that she'd solidly win that and be on to Churchill. Her ultimate problems not withstanding, I'd notch Sweet Catomine as a better contender going into the SA Derby yet she did just 'fair' in that race.

Amateurcapper said...

I'm going to defend Privman and Dwyre, not that they need it, but because I agree with them.

The IEAH group along with the president of the partnership, Michael Iavarone, framed the expectations for STARDOM BOUND.

Her performances as a 2y.o. raised expectations. This is not the kind of demolition of fillies that would produce a challenger to the males. In fact, both '09 efforts lacked the "wow" factor of her juvenile wins.

I also see your point. She held serve while running wide enough for me to think she was five lengths best on the day. I compare this grinding win to RAGS TO RICHES' win in the G.1 Las Virgenes when she finished slow, only won by 3/4, but traveled very wide. R2R improved off that effort to demolish the SA Oaks and Kentucky Oaks fields before winning the Belmont S.

IF Stardom Bound trounces fillies in her final prep, her 3rd start of the year like R2R did in her 3rd win vs. fillies, THEN STARDOM BOUND deserves a berth in the Kentucky Derby gate.

However, if she doesn't show herself head and shoulders better than the girls, which is how her win Saturday reads, how in the world can she be considered a legitimate threat in the SA Derby let alone Kentucky Derby?

After the race, it's Iavarone's disappointment and relief in his comment that force a harsher critique (from Privman's article at "I need a defibrillator...She worked pretty hard. She's really going to have to improve to beat Pioneerof the Nile. She worked pretty hard against the girls today."

You can't expect a filly to improve against the boys, she's already got to be at her peak.

John said...

Here here, I thought she might have been ten wide on the turn. Mike Smith termed it not one of his heady rides and I agree.

Anonymous said...

The winning streak should have ended yesterday, Nan was best.

Stardom Bound saved all the ground on the first time, as she always does, more than compensating for her wide trip. She rallied down the middle of the track, exactly where you want to be on that surface.

Nan, despite being one of the speeds on paper, was strongly rated and was actually behind Stardom Bound after checking at the top of the stretch. She then got shut off in the lane and altered course to rally on the inside against the usual bias, while SB was rallying unimpeded on the outside.

So yes, her performance WAS disappointing, albeit gutsy.

The bar has been raised very high for this filly, Kentucky Derby, Winning Colors, Genuine Risk, Zenyatta, right now she is not near that stratosphere. ITs not her fault of course, but she will be labeled a disappointment if she does not take the next step.

El Angelo said...

Stardom Bound has run either one or 2 truly "fast" races, depending on how yesterday's race is measured. She looks brilliant and talented, but on paper, doesn't actually appear to be that fast.

dana said...

Right on Alan, I totally agree with you. I was just sitting down to write a similar post... I couldn't believe it when I started to read the coverage!

She's staying right where she is in my list as well. I thought her performance was impressive, in addition to all the points you make, she didn't look like she was on her A game and she still had the guts & determination to fight for the win.

Anonymous said...

That $350K on her to show was looking like a lost cause just past the 1/16 pole.