In the final start of her career, multiple graded stakes winner Upperline outfought Ciao Bella in the homestretch to prevail by three-quarters of a length in the $125,000 Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes Oct. 21 on the Keeneland turf (VIDEO).
The winning 5-year-old daughter of Maria's Mon out of the multiple stakes-placed mare Snowflake, by Caerleon, is scheduled to be sold at the Fasig-Tipton November breeding stock sale.
The bay mare, bred in Kentucky by Stonerside Stable, is currently owned by Arthur B. Hancock III's Stone Farm, John H. Adger, Oak Crest Farm, and Michael Stidham, who trains her.
James Graham guided 2-1 choice Upperline to victory in the 1 1/2-mile grass test in a time of 2:32.19 over firm going. Ciao Bella saved the runner-up spot by a neck over a late-running Janicellaine.
A crowd announced at 19,134 was on hand for the Sunday program at Keeneland.
Upperline ran second in last year's Dowager to 16-1 outsider Senada, who finished fourth this year in the marathon event for fillies and mares. Upperline has won two of her three tries at the 12-furlong distance.
"She's been a superstar from the beginning," Stidham said approvingly of the winner. "She's been tough in all of her races, and we're just happy that she was able to do it like this. We're just sorry we hadn't started running her a mile and a half a long time ago. James (Graham) rode her great, and she's a great mare."
Third in the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (gr. I) over Keeneland's Polytrack Oct. 7 Upperline won for the third time in eight starts this year. She was making the shortest turnaround between races of her career for the Dowager.
"I had a great trip," Graham said. "Great training achievement by Mike to have her back this good in two weeks off a grade I third. She did everything I asked her to do."
Eleven entered the starting gate for this year's Dowager. Ciao Bella ceded the early lead to For the Win and tracked her and Maid of Heaven on the outside as the race unfolded through a soft half-mile in :51.07 and six furlongs in 1:116.44. Ciao Bella, the 3-1 second choice, swept to the front after they completed the mile in 1:43.04. Though confronted on her outside by the favorite, she took a narrow advantage into the stretch.
Those two fought it out in the lane as Upperline put her head in front at mid-stretch. She began to get the better of her rival in the late going, inching away in the final strides under urging from Graham.
Ciao Bella, ridden by John Velazquez, gave a game effort in her first try beyond nine furlongs.
"She ran huge; a really, really big race," Velazquez said of the runner-up. "I thought she had a really good chance to win it. She was kind of drifting out a little bit. It she didn't do that, she probably would have won the race."
Irish-bred Janicellaine rallied from fourth at the quarter pole for Julien Leparoux to just miss second.
Upperline's last victory came in the Arlington Matron (gr. IIIT) May 26 at Arlington Park. She won the Grey Goose Bewitch Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the Keeneland turf in April, and also captured the Arlington Oaks (gr. III) in 2010 and the Allen LaCombe Memorial Handicap, Bayou Handicap, and Trillium Stakes last year.
Her overall record stands at 9-5-4 in 25 races with earnings of $772,988.
Carrying top weight of 123 pounds, Upperline paid $6, $3.20, $2.40. Ciao Bella returned $4.60 and $3.60, and the two favorites combined for an exacta worth $25.60. Janicellaine paid $4.20 to show.
Senada was followed by Bubbly Jane, Thislilsoulofmine, Revelstoke, Maid of Heaven, Heart of Destiny, Charming She Is, and For the Win.