Courtesy of Becky Johnston
There has been some pointed
discussion about Stardom Bound's time in her Las Virgenes win on Saturday. She ran the race in 1:36 2/5 and received
speed ratings in the area of 84-87. To
take the time and the rating as the gospel for this race would be the
equivalent of reading Cliffs Notes for the Bible, it just doesn't tell the
Stardom Bound was making her first
start of the season. She actually came
away from the gate running, but Mike Smith was able to get her to the
rail. She found herself boxed-in at
various times, but when it came time to put up or shut up, the pair found a
sliver of light and surged through it.
She hit the seam with a sense of urgency that only the gutsiest of
performers seem to understand.
When she got clear, she extended
her stride beautifully with an incredible reach while Mike Smith folded her
up. Thus, her length and a neck win was
much more visually impressive than paper and a stopwatch would have you
believe. Now if you believe that time is
the only thing that is important, stop reading, because I am going to try and
make my point about the importance of winning this early race and what part
race time played in the future of some of the greatest winners.
First the race; here's Stardom
Bound's Las Virgenes 2009:
The newly minted three-year-old
joins an impressive list of fillies that won this race and went on to great
things. The race was installed in 1983
with Saucy Bobbie (1:36 1/5) the winner and by 1984, the race had made a name
Althea, the two-year-old champion,
took the second edition (1:37). She went
on to win the Arkansas Derby. Along with
another filly, Life's Magic, was favored in the Run for the Roses, but she
would finish far back.
The winter of 1985 brought the
Earl Scheib owned Fran's Valentine (1:36 2/5) to the gate. She won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in
it's inaugural running, only to be disqualified for interference. She is still the only horse to have that
When May rolled around, Fran's
Valentine took the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.
The 1986 edition featured Lloyd R.
Finch and Eugene Klein's Life at the Top (1:36 1/5). The daughter of Seattle Slew ventured to Belmont to take the Mother Goose Stakes later that spring.
R.D. Hubbard's daughter of 1982
Irish Derby winner Assert, Timely Assertion (1:36 4/5) was the winner in
1987. The filly went on to take the
Santa Anita Oaks.
One of the most accomplished and
probably unfortunate fillies was 1988's winner Goodbye Halo (1:36 4/5). Her outstanding accomplishments were lost in
the exploits of Winning Colors and Personal Ensign that year. She might be a horse racing trivia question
for some (who ran third in the 1988 Breeders' Cup behind the aforementioned
distaffers?), but for those that saw her for the talented filly that she was,
her memory is long.
This is Arthur Hancock's filly
trained by Charlie Whittingham in the 1988 running of the Kentucky Oaks.
After that win, she would take the
Mother Goose and the Coach Club American Oaks.
The next edition in 1989 was won
by the Mel Stute trained Kool Arrival (1:38) and in 1990 Alex Solis rode the Florida bred daughter of Kris S., Cheval Volant (1:35 3/5).
The Las Vigenes of 1991 would
produce another outstanding filly in the form of Lite Light (1:36 1/5). She was purchased by pop music's M.C.
Hammer. The filly would go on to win the
Santa Anita Oaks and then made the trek to race under the Twin Spires.
The 1991 Kentucky Oaks, watch for
Lite Light's devastating move coming out of the turn for home and the stylings
of the great race caller, Tom Durkin.
You cannot think of Lite Light
without thinking of the Mother of all Gooses, as she faced Carl Icahn's
two-year-old champion Meadow Star. This
is one of the best races in the history of the sport. Tom Durkin was again the third star of the
race. If this race can't give you
goosebumps, you can't get them.
This race set the stage for the
Coaching Club American Oaks and a rematch.
The celebration by Hammer and family is not to be missed. Shug McGaughey and the Phipps family will
never forget it, as they had a front row seat.
Watch for them in the background.
Warren Stute sent out his
versatile trainee, Magical Maiden (1:36 3/5)
for the win in 1992 and Golden Eagle Farm's Likeable Style (1:36 3/5)
would the 1993 version. Likeable Style
would go on to produce the Mr. Prospector filly Love Style, who would in turn
produce the Grade 1 winner Scat Daddy.
The 1994 race would produce
another outstanding filly in Mike Rutherford's Lakeway (1:35). The daughter of Triple Crown winner Seattle
Slew went on to win the Santa Anita Oaks.
Her effort along with Jerry and Ann Moss' brilliant daughter of Storm
Cat, Sardula, in the Kentucky Oaks were too good not to show here.
Sardula would become ill later in
the year and after much love and care she and her owners would lose the battle
for her life. Lakeway would go on to run
second in the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga and the life of a broodmare.
Lucky 13 produced another
outstanding filly for the 1995 running in the Bob and Beverly Lewis owned
daughter of Rahy, Serena's Song (1:35 2/5).
The filly was one of the most accomplished fillies to ever run in this
race, but that is a race in itself.
She gave you a preview of her
tenacity in the prior fall's Breeder's Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Flanders never recovered from this effort, but Serena's Song was
set on a sky-rocketing career.
She ran in the Santa Anita Oaks
after her Las Virgenes score and with a flair for the dramatic, put on another great show with the
Siegel family's Urbane.
Serena's Song went into the
Kentucky Derby off an easy win over colts in the Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway,
but she could only manage 16th place. Her connections would not give up on the
challenge of facing the males and after winning the Black Eyed Susan Stakes and
the Mother Goose, she took her show to the Jersey Shore for the Haskell Invitational.
You can hear from the crowd that
she was a fan favorite. She has gone on
to produce Oaklawn Handicap winner Grand Reward, Gulfstream Park Handicap
winner Harlington, and Group 1 Coronation winner Sophisticat.
The 1996 winner, Antespend (1:36
2/5), went on to win the Santa Anita Oaks with jockey Chris Antley. Later in the summer, she won the Del Mar
Oaks. She produced the 2004 Florida
Derby winner Friends Lake by A.P. Indy.
The 1997 winner was one of the
most unpredictable fillies to win the race, Sharp Cat (1:35 2/5). She had a propensity to wind up her tail and
duck out when hit with the whip and you will see her do just that in this video
of her Las Virgenes win.
She won the Santa Anita Oaks, but
was again erratic in the Kentucky Oaks.
The daughter of Storm Cat notched a win in the Acorn and ran second in
the Breeders' Cup Distaff. She made
history at Hollywood Park with a walkover win in the Bayakoa Stakes, the only such
effort in the history of the track.
Stardom Bound's trainer, Bobby
Frankel, would get his first win the event in 1998 when Dr. John A. Chandler's
Keeper Hill (1:36 4/5) took the prize. Like
many before her, this was a stepping stone on the way to Louisville. She was keeping
fast company in this, the 1998 running of the Kentucky Oaks.
Keeper Hill would add the Mother
Goose to her resume' that year also.
Golden Eagle Farm re-visited the
winner's circle for the 1999 edition with Excellent Meeting (1:35 1/5), a
talented filly that ran fifth in the Kentucky Derby after she won the Santa
Anita Oaks and the Fantasy Stakes.
However, the General Meeting filly executed her career in the shadow of
her stablemate Silverbulletday, owned by Mike Pegram.
We're going to take a step back to
the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies to see both of these fillies in action as
Serena's Song's nemesis, Flanders,
produced the 2000 Las Virgenes winner, Surfside (1:37). She won the Santa Anita Oaks and the
three-year-old championship when she closed out Churchill Downs' fall meet with
a win in the Clark Handicap against older males.
Team Valor and the Heligbrodt
Racing Stable gave us the next winner and the first female trainer, Jenine
Sahadi in 2001. Golden Ballet shook off
several challenges to win the Santa Anita Oaks.
She won six of her ten starts
never and was never out of the top three, but an injury in June of that same
year forced her into early retirement.
Bobby Frankel got his second win
in this race with Edmund Gann's lovely filly You (1:38 4/5) in 2002. She went on to win the Santa Anita Oaks and
the Acorn, but it was a seven-furlong race at Saratoga that we all remember You and the gutsy filly Carson
Hollow. The Las Virgenes winner, again,
gives us one of the best races in the history of the sport.
Bob and Beverly Lewis would take
the Las Virgenes for the second and third time with Composure (1:36) in 2003
and A.P. Adventure (1:36 2/5) in 2004.
Composure would also take the Santa Anita Oaks.
Doug O'Neill and Paul Reddam would
take the race in 2005 with a daughter of Dixieland Band, Sharp Lisa (1:35
The 2006 renewal would give us
Amerman Racing's Balance (1:36 2/5). The
big filly was a daughter of Thunder Gulch and she would win the Santa Anita
Oaks and falter as the favorite in the Kentucky Oaks. Little did we know then that this millionaire
had a sister that would take us all on a ride in 2008, Zenyatta.
The 2007 winner of the Las Virgenes
would give us another tomboy, Rags to Riches (1:37 4/5). The chestnut
filly by A.P. Indy sailed through her races breaking her maiden in January, but
found herself the winner of the Santa Anita Oaks and the favorite for the
Kentucky Oaks. Her effort left some
wondering if the best three-year-old was seen on Friday instead of Saturday.
She answered some of those
questions in the Belmont Stakes.
Barry Abrams gave us a
heartwarming story in the 2008 edition of Santa Anita's Grade 1 Las Virgenes
when he overcame cancer to return to training.
The Cal-bred daughter of Unusual Heat, Golden Doc A (1:35 4/5) ran
second in the Santa Anita Oaks to the Bobby Frankel-trained Ariege.
Although the track has a very
different surface today, her time was certainly comparable to some of the
greatest fillies to win this race. To
compare her to a five-year-old colt carrying fitness, five less pounds and a
much quicker early pace seems illogical also.
This is a classy race. She is a classy filly. If you want to say that her speed rating
makes her no better than a $30,000 claimer, well I'll take that bet.