Let the games begin! The Fair Grounds winter meet kicks off today, and Mike Stidham is aiming to leap onto the leader board quickly with a brace of entries both Saturday and Sunday.
The colored beads have been fished out of the Stidham closet and the Mardi Gras costumes have been given a dusting off in anticipation of the start of the winter racing season at Fair Grounds this Friday – a meet in which the trainer has always been a major force.
The race may have fallen on a quiet afternoon at one of California’s less star-studded tracks, but when Star’s Woman passed the post first in the maiden special weight at Golden Gate this past Sunday, the victory was of monumental importance to Mike Stidham and all who have supported him throughout his 35-year career, for it marked his 1,500th career victory as a trainer.
After the high-octane fireworks of last weekend, when Her Emmynency staked her claim for Breeders’ Cup glory with an award winning performance in the Surfer Girl Stakes at Santa Anita, this weekend promises something a little more sobering as Mike Stidham prepares to saddle only three runners spread between Keeneland and Hawthorne.
All roads lead to Rome, they say – well, in Her Emmynency’s case, the road she’s currently traveling is headed for a climactic collision-course with the very best of her generation in the Breeders’ Cup on October 31 after her scintillating win in the Surfer Girl Stakes at Santa Anita today.
On a sun-splashed balmy Wednesday morning this week at Santa Anita, Her Emmynency, her coat a gleaming shade of walnut, was on her way to the paddock for schooling when I asked Mike Stidham assistant Chris Davis how she’ll fair in the Surfer Girl Stakes on Sunday. His response: “Winner, winner, chicken dinner.”
And with so many of Stidham’s sharpest arrows aimed at multiple big prizes this weekend, optimism is high and chickens run scared as the Stidham stable sits poised on the edge of one of it’s most important few days this season.
J. M. Barrie once wrote: “Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.” While that sentiment has more than an element of truth to it, Mike Stidham would argue to the contrary as he packs his belongings and prepares to leave Arlington Park for another year happy to reflect upon and remember yet another triumphant summer spent at Chicago’s feted racecourse.
So near and yet so far was the adage most widely chanted around the Mike Stidham barn in the wake of the Grade I Debutante Stakes at Del Mar Saturday after Her Emmynency ran the race of a lifetime to finish a neck second in one of the toughest two-year-old races run anywhere this season.
Istanford’s winning ways continue unabated after another demolition job of her rivals in yet another feature race at Del Mar today, proving beyond doubt that the salubrious sea air of the beautiful California track is more than a fine fit for Mike Stidham’s stable standard-bearer.
Football player Jack Youngblood once said that good luck is the residue of preparation. If that’s true, then Mike Stidham’s preparations prior to the current Arlington meet must have been impeccable given his recent scorching run of form. And the fun looks set to continue this weekend, with three of his stable stars set to compete in a number of big races throughout the nation.
The Mike Stidham stable is hotter than the hinges of Hades at present, and his sensational run of form continued unabated over the weekend with three winners throughout the nation – Jessica’s Star was the undisputed headline act after a thrilling victory in the Prairie Mile Stakes Saturday.
The winners keep flooding in at Arlington for Mike Stidham, and another memorable weekend was capped by Istanford’s sublime win in the Arlington Classic Stakes on Saturday – the first leg of the Mid-America Triple series on the grass, for three-year-olds.
While the headlines over the weekend were all about the Triple Crown chances of Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome, the number three was also a significant number for Mike Stidham over the same period, as a result of the Arlington based trainer sending out a sensational triple-header of winners at the Chicago track.
There are three constants to the start to this years Arlington Park meet: the sun continues to glitter over the racetrack, the flowers in the infield are still daubed in a riot of color, and Mike Stidham maintains his extraordinarily rich vein of form after another successful week – an omen that bodes well for the impeding weekend action.
The curtain has been drawn and Fair Grounds is over for another year, but Mike Stidham hitches up the wagons satisfied with another solid showing at the Louisiana racetrack. Stidham ends the meet in eighth place on the trainers standings with a noteworthy $704,646 in total earnings. What is more, Stidham’s runners finished in the first three over fifty percent of the time – no mean feat at such a competitive venue.