The filly Stardom Bound still is.
But her exact date with destiny in early May at Churchill Downs remained uncertain, after a rocky win in the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks on Saturday.
The Kentucky Derby will be May 2. The entry of fillies into that race is a rarity; fillies winning even more so. There have been three -- Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980 and Winning Colors in 1988.
Winning Colors won the Santa Anita Oaks en route to the Derby. The discussion of Stardom Bound’s following those footsteps remained alive, but shaky, after her dicey victory.
Trainer Bobby Frankel avoided the question after the race. That left it to Mike Iavarone of IEAH Stables, part owner of Stardom Bound, to address the Derby question.
“If they think they want to go forward, I’m willing to go forward,” he said, “but she worked pretty hard against the girls today.”
In other words, if they were making the decision tomorrow, Stardom Bound would be lining up, probably as the favorite, for the May 1 Kentucky Oaks.
Stardom Bound hung back, as usual, and made a trophy dash off the home turn, as usual. But this time, when she edged ahead in the stretch, several horses, especially Third Dawn with Rafael Bejarano up, swung wide and took Stardom Bound with them.
“Everybody went out,” jockey Mike Smith said. “They took me 15-20 wide. You couldn’t have had a worse trip.”
But somehow, after nearly stopping, Stardom Bound got it in gear with about an eighth of a mile to go and nipped Third Dawn in a photo finish. That gave the veteran Frankel his second straight Oaks win, his third overall, and some decision making ahead, something he was hesitant to address.
“I’m just lucky my heart’s strong,” he said.
He needed that two races later, when another of his female stars was in the mix at the wire in the $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Handicap.
Ventura, a mare taking on the boys, got the lead coming home and then, inexplicably, turned her head less than 100 yards from home.
That allowed Gio Ponti to catch up and win by a nose, or roughly the same distance by which Frankel won with Stardom Bound.
I Want Revenge, ridden by Joe Talamo and trained by Jeff Mullins, won the Gotham Stakes by 8 1/2 lengths at Aqueduct in New York and is on course for the Kentucky Derby.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.