The veteran five-year-old mare Upperline made her finale for the Mike Stidham
barn in Sunday's $125,000
Stakes, and seized the moment to make Keeneland history as well. The winner
of the Grade 3 Bewitch here in April, Upperline became the first to sweep both
of the track's 1 1/2-mile turf stakes for distaffers in the same season.
Under a pitch-perfect ride by James Graham, the 2-1 favorite outdueled the sophomore Ciao Bella in deep stretch and edged three-quarters of a length clear. Upperline stopped the teletimer in 2:32 on the firm course to notch her seventh career stakes victory, improving her record to 25-9-5-4, $772,988.Upperline now heads off to the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky sales ring on November 5, where Stidham and fellow co-owners Stone Farm, John Adger and Oakcrest Farm will offer her as a racing or broodmare prospect. The classy daughter of Maria's Mon will sport Hip No. 178, while bringing this significant catalog update in tow.
"She's been a superstar from the beginning," Stidham said. "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."
The 64-1 longshot For the Win went to the front through fractions of :25 2/5 and :51, but Ciao Bella joined her through six furlongs 1:16 2/5. Upperline, who had been tracking in the next flight just behind Ciao Bella, also took closer order when that rival moved forward down the backstretch. Ciao Bella took over through a mile in 1:43, and Upperline again covered her move.
Ciao Bella and Upperline both pulled away from the rapidly-weakening For the Win on the final turn. Although Ciao Bella maintained the lead after 1 1/4 miles in 2:08 2/5, Upperline was relentless on the outside. The three-year-old likewise tried to repel her older rival and gamely kept fighting back down the lane.
Yet Upperline, who was conceding five pounds to Ciao Bella as the 123-pound
highweight, would not be denied. The stronger of the two inside the final
furlong, Upperline finally put her stubborn foe away and returned $6, $3.20 and
"I had a great trip," Graham said. "Great training achievement by Mike to have her back this good in two weeks off a Grade 1 third (in the Spinster on October 7). She did everything I asked her to do."
"(Ciao Bella) ran huge -- a really, really big race," jockey John Velazquez said. "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. But she still ran a good race."
Ciao Bella saved second by a neck from Janicellaine, who despite pulling fiercely in the early going, produced a fine late kick to grab third. Senada, the defending champion who had beaten Upperline in last year's Dowager, was along for fourth. Next came Bubbly Jane, Thislilsoulofmine, Revelstoke, Maid of Heaven, Heart of Destiny, Charming She Is and the tailed-off For the Win.
Upperline has been a graded stakes performer in each of her four seasons of racing. At two, she placed in the Grade 2 Golden Rod in a rare foray on dirt, as well as the Top Flight over Arlington's Polytrack. She would go on to excel over turf and synthetic surfaces. As a sophomore in 2010, the bay captured the Grade 3 Arlington Oaks and finished third in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride.
Last season, Upperline annexed the Trillium at Woodbine and a pair of Fair Grounds stakes, the Bayou and Allen Lacombe Memorial Handicaps. She concluded 2011 with a close second in the Dowager, her first attempt at this 1 1/2-mile distance. She would not lose again in her two subsequent efforts at the trip, the April 26 Bewitch and Sunday's Dowager.
Upperline's other 2012 highlights include a four-length romp in the Grade 3 Arlington Matron, near-miss seconds as the defending champion in both the Bayou and Trillium, and thirds in the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap and the Spinster last time out.
Bred by Stonerside Stable in Kentucky, Upperline is out of the Group 1-placed Caerleon mare Snowflake, making her a half-sister to stakes scorer Snow Fall. Upperline's second dam is Ivyanna, heroine of the Group 1 Oaks d'Italia in 1992. This is the family of a few redoubtable stayers -- Group 2 victor Distinction, who placed in two editions of the Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup; multiple stakes winner and Group 3-placed Ivy Creek; and multiple stakes scorer and Group 2-placed Electrolyser, who just ran fourth in the Group 3 British Champions Long Distance Cup on Saturday.
Upperline's fourth dam is noted matron Durga.