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.
Stidham couldn’t have rounded the meet off in any finer fashion when he sent out If I Ever for a resounding victory on closing day. Owned by Stidham in partnership with Paul O’Reilly, If I Ever would have had a laundry list of excuses had he finished down the field: after enduring a dodgems-style start to the race, he swept four-wide rounding the turn before sluicing to a one-and-a-half length victory under jockey James Graham. It was a performance adorned with class and professionalism from this twice-raced son of Nobiz Like Showbiz, and he joins an ever burgeoning inventory of young horses at the Stidham barn with futures as rosy-pink as cherry blossom.
But If I Ever’s victory yesterday was only one of a whole treasure trove of glorious memories that fans of the stable can take away from Arlington this year, at the top of which sits Istanford’s crushing defeat of her dumb-struck competitors in the Grade III Arlington Classic Stakes back in May – the first of a string of famous victories this summer from the belle of the Stidham barn.
Those who joined Istanford in the winners enclosure belong to a list too long to tick off individually, but deserving of special mention are Every Way–a young filly whose seat at the stake race victor’s table has long been placed in reserve–and Casting, who racked up a sensational Arlington four-timer.
The Stidham two-year-olds have been a prolific old bunch this term, too. The likes of Helen Kathleen, Ike Walker and One Go All Go are all Arlington luminaries that one can expect to see shine at other tracks in the months ahead.
In the end, Stidham finished fourth on the trainer’s standings, with 34 winners on the board and $876,944 in the piggy bank. As for the percentage of Stidham runners that finished in the first three, well you can’t say any fairer than a whopping 60% – a tremendous total given the gladiatorial nature of the competition at Arlington.
There’s little time to pause for breath, however. Most of the Stidham string are now Keeneland bound. Approximately 18 head to Churchill Downs, while a lucky few continue to soak up the California sunshine.
And then what’s that I hear in the not too distant future? Jazz music? Creole? Who’s that mentioning something about a Monsoon?