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.
Voluptuous got the ball rolling Friday when she made a competitive maiden special weight look like a cake-walk. While not enjoying the best of starts, jockey James Graham didn’t panic – content to let his mount find her feet before gradually coaxing her into contention upper stretch. When he released the brake, however, the response was fast and lethal, and the pair drew to a 10 1/4 length victory over the second horse home.
A day later, it was Zubi Zubi Zu’s turn to land an optional claimer in good style. Again, nearer last than first for the opening half of the race, Zubi Zubi Zu crept slowly into contention. And when jockey Carlos Marquez Jr. produced her alongside the eventual runner-up, Harmony Place, mid-stretch, she showed a steely attitude to run out a length winner at the wire.
The hat-trick was completed by Sapphire Breeze, who eked out a win in the claimer by the narrowest of margins. Despite proving a little over-enthusiastic early on, Sapphire Breeze maintained just enough in the tank to repel the persistent challenge of runner-up, Latika Love. Florent Geroux was in the saddle.
Stidham has a busy week ahead. On Thursday, he’s entered Champagneforpeace, E. M. Maximus and Follow the Kitten at Arlington, while Big John B is scheduled to run at Churchill Downs the same day. Sanculpa holds an entry at Arlington Friday.
Check back in again later this week for a recap of the week’s action, and a look ahead to the weekend.