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.
Istanford’s win today in the Sandy Blue Handicap–a $90,000 race run over a mile–was achieved in similar fashion to her stunning success last time out in the Grade II San Clemente Handicap, also at Del Mar – almost straight to the lead and never headed thereafter. And when she rocketed past the winning post, winning jockey Rafael Bejarano needed a good pair of spectacles to see the next horse home three-and-a-half lengths in arrears.
On this evidence, Stidham’s decision to withdraw Istanford from the Grade I Del Mar Oaks was a smart if decidedly difficult decision, and there’s still plenty of time for Stidham’s flying filly to make amends with further graded stake success this season. This facile victory was her third win this year, and clearly still on the upgrade, who knows what kind of further improvement Del Mar’s salty sea air can produce in this talented daughter of Istan.
One thing’s for certain: the party’s only just beginning for owners Dawn and Ike Thrash, and Sam and Janet Alley.
Istanford wasn’t the only Stidham inmate winning today. Sanculpa showed a dogged attitude to prevail by a hard-fought neck in a claimer at Arlington today. Sanculpa, owned by Gary Biszantz, was given a typically clever ride by jockey James Graham, who settled his mount midfield before timing his challenge out wide to be exactly where he needed to be when they flashed past the post.
This was Sanculpa’s second win in his short career, and it would be no surprise to see this son of Langfuhr make a return to the winner’s enclosure some time soon.
And now onto the weekend. While Istanford may have skipped the Grade I Del Mar Oaks, Stidham is still set to be represented by Stellaris in the $300,000 race for three-year-old fillies. One of nine scheduled to go to post, jockey Kent Desormeaux takes the mount. She an early morning-line 12-1 shot.
Up at Arlington, Zubi Zubi Zu is one of ten to tackle the $75,000 Hatoof Stakes, jockey Carlos Marquez in the saddle. Twice a winner in only six starts, Zubi Zubi Zu is a 9-2 shot to earn herself some of that black type her stable-mate Istanford keeps talking about.
Not to be left out in the cold, Ground Transport is gunning to get back on the winning trail when he lines up in the Arapahoe Park Classic – a $100,000 minor stake at Arapahoe Park Sunday. Ten go to post, and this certainly looks like an easier spot for the talented son of Big Brown after two punishing races in much tougher company last time out. Jockey David Mello takes the mount.
Elsewhere over the weekend, Inavanti and Hubbala Hubbala line up at Arlington tomorrow, while Redhot Fillypepper, Betterthandiamonds and Bobblehead do the same Sunday. Forest Elf is Stidham’s sole runner at Del Mar Sunday.
Check back in again the start of next week for a run-down of the weekend action.