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Stidham Takes Two Shots On Million Day

Stidham Takes Two Shots On Million Day

Mike Stidham has won some big races during his career, including nine graded stakes among 22 stakes wins at Arlington Park, but the track's Grade I races have eluded the veteran trainer.

Stidham hopes to remedy that situation on Saturday when he sends Lael Stable & All In Stable's Willcox Inn and Stone Farm et. al.'s Upperline postward in the Arlington Million and Beverly D. Stakes, respectively.

Stidham's pair is coming into the race in different ways. Willcox Inn has raced just once since November, winning an allowance on July 22 at Arlington in his 4-year-old debut. He has worked twice since that score, including five furlongs in 1:00 on Saturday, galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.20.

"He's doing really well," Stidham said on Tuesday. "He came out of the work great and will gallop up to the race.

"He's kind of established himself as a graded stakes horse, but we hope he takes the next step in Grade I company. The time off did him well. He came back better mentally, and with a race under his belt I think he's ready to run his 'A' race."

Upperline, meanwhile, has already raced five times this year, winning the Grade III Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland and the Grade III Arlington Matron here before placing in Woodbine's $100,000 Trillium Stakes and Arlington's Grade III Modesty Handicap ahead of her Beverly D. try. She worked five furlongs on Sunday at Arlington breezing in 1:01.

"It's been a busy year for her already," Stidham said. "She's like Willcox Inn – established in graded stakes and looking for a Grade I performance. She was beaten just four lengths in this race last year behind some good horses. A step forward can get a bigger piece this year."

Stidham has a pair of Grade I victories in his career, winning the 2006 Frizette with Sutra and the 1994 Coaching Club American Oaks with Two Altazano. Both of those wins came at Belmont Park in New York, and adding to his Grade I tally at Arlington Park would be extra special for the conditioner who ranks first in win percentage among trainers with at least 50 starters at the current meeting (28/108, 25.9%).

"It'd be big to win a Grade I on Million day," Stidham said. "I really enjoy being here every summer, and we run a lot of horses and the fans know who we are."

James Graham will ride both of Stidham's charges on Saturday. The trainer said that these races were the summer goals for both Upperline and Willcox Inn, but that he would consider adding the Breeders' Cup World Championships to their fall schedules with good performances on Saturday.

 

 

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