Photo: Four Footed Fotos
Arlington Park’s Mid-America Triple got off to a rousing start today when Istanford, the lone filly in the field, led the boys on a merry chase to win the Grade 3 Arlington Classic by a measured length for trainer Mike Stidham.
Breaking fast from her outside post, Istanford won the early race for the lead heading into the first turn and continued to lope along with only token pressure through fractions of :24.36, :49.21, and 1:14.13. Long On Value made a move on the far turn to be the main challenge, but Istanford spurted out to a clear lead in mid-stretch, and cruised to the wire from there, always looking like a winner over that rival. She completed the 1 1/16 miles distance in 1:43.60 over the good turf.
Despite taking on males for the first time, Istanford was not making a step up in class after tangling with a slew of toughies like Unbridled Forever, Testa Rossi, Room Service and Rosalind in recent races. Coming off a sharp second last time in Churchill Downs’ Edgewood Stakes on the undercard of the Kentucky Oaks, the daughter of Istan won for the second time in as many tries over the Arlington Park turf course, having romped in her debut last August.
Winning rider, James Graham, who has been aboard the dark bay filly in each of her wins, was clearly high on the filly after pulling off the mild upset. “She’s great; absolutely beautiful,” said Graham. “She showed today that if they give her a breather, they ain’t catching her. I’ve wanted to ride her all along but sometimes I couldn’t get off another horse I was supposed to ride. We were going to lay off if (Solitary Ranger) wanted the lead, but evidently he didn’t. So, she just bounced around here happy as (can be) and came on home.”
Now a winner of 3-of-7 lifetime, but 5-3-2-0 on the grass, it would seem that Istanford has a big future ahead of her, just ask the boys she smoked today at Arlington.
In other Graded Stakes action on Saturday at Arlington Park…
Horses for courses. La Tia continued her love for the local track at Arlington today with a dominating front-running victory in the Grade 3 Arlington Matron. Skipping over the same Polytrack stip that she had won three times before, the five-year-old Illinois-bred daughter of City Place covered the mile and an eighth in 1:49.66, while winning by 6 ½ never in doubt lengths. Also a stakes winner over the Arlington turf, La Tia paid $5.20 as the 8-5 favorite, for her 7th win in 17 lifetime starts.
In a wide open race on paper, it turned out to be a pair of seven-year-old geldings who ruled the roost over their younger competition in the Grade 3 Hanshin Cup. Sitting comfortably in the middle of the pack behind a strong early pace, Nikki’s Sandcastle rallied five-wide on the turn and wore down the leaders with a relentless stretch run that carried him to a half-length victory. Another 7yo non-breeder, Mister Marti Gras rallied from far back to take over second place in the late stages. Nikki’s Sandcastle paid $16.40 as the 7-1 third choice in the field of 13, while winning for the 10th time in 40 lifetime starts.