In more than four decades of training horses, Michael Stidham never had a year like 2019, setting career highs across the board and reaching the 2,000-win milestone.
Stidham has picked up where he left off in 2020, winning with 15 of his first 55 starters and hitting the board at a 56 percent clip. He hopes to keep the momentum going with some good results at Gulfstream Park with Godolphin’s stakes-winning homebred Micheline in Saturday’s $100,000 Sweetest Chant (G3).
The 24th running of the Sweetest Chant for fillies and the 12th renewal of the $100,000 Dania Beach, both at one mile on the turf, are among five stakes for 3-year-olds, four graded, worth $750,000 in purses on a 12-race program highlighted by the $250,000 Holy Bull (G3). First race post time is noon.
Born in New Jersey in 1957 but raised in South Florida, Stidham won 109 of 612 starts and nearly $4.6 million in purses in 2019, all personal bests, and picked up victory No. 2,000 in November at Tampa Bay Downs. Micheline, a bay daughter of champion Bernardini, added to the success with two wins from five starts.
“It was a huge year. Obviously we had good quality horses and everybody worked together to have our best year ever,” Stidham said. “We’ve gotten off to a good start this year and everything’s been going really well.”
Micheline broke her maiden in her second start, a 1 ¾-length triumph in the one-mile Sorority Stakes on the grass at Monmouth Park. After finishing off the board in the Alcibiades (G1) on the dirt at Keeneland and the Chelsey Flower over Aqueduct’s turf, she rebounded with a one-length optional claiming allowance win going a mile Dec. 20 at Tampa.
“We needed to see that for us to consider taking a step like into this race. She definitely bounced back,” Stidham said. “We got a little bit off course with her, obviously, when we tried the dirt. We were hoping that she would adjust to the dirt and she didn’t run her race and we decided we’ll stay with the grass and, preferably, a firm turf for her.
“When she ran in the New York race, the ground was kind of soft. So, we felt like she had excuses in those races and that’s why we’re hoping for a firm course there on the weekend,” he added. “She’s doing well, she’s ready to go, and we’re hoping it stays on.”
Jose Ortiz is named to ride Micheline from post No. 6 in the field of nine.
Daniel Staudacher’s Sunset Promise will make her graded debut in the Sweetest Chant seeking her first career stakes triumph. The Broken Vow was second in both the Selima at Laurel Park and Wait A While at Gulfstream, and most recently rallied to be fourth despite a rough trip, beaten only 2 ¼ lengths, in the 7 ½-furlong Ginger Brew Jan. 4.
“She got bumped a few times but she came out of it good,” trainer Mike Maker said. “She shows up every time. She was a little unlucky last time with the trip, but she’s got to get lucky and get one of these sooner or later.”
Championship Meet-leading rider Irad Ortiz Jr. has the call from post No. 1.
Completing the field are Ginger Brew winner She’s My Type; Ginger Brew runner-up Moral Reasoning, trained by Chad Brown, who won six straight editions of the Sweetest Chant from 2012-17; Wait A While winner Cheermeister; Ivyetsu, making her turf debut; Reluctant Bride, an impressive maiden winner Jan. 20 at Gulfstream; Moana’s Tale and Filly Jean King, the latter entered for main track only.