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.
James Graham gave Stidham’s performer a canny ride in the Grade III race, quickly taking her to the lead on the rail. There, he dictated a comfortable pace, gradually picking it up around the far turn. As they entered the top of the stretch, however, the challengers swarmed, but Istanford was never going to buckle, and she stuck determinedly to her guns to pass the post a length to the good.
“She’s absolutely beautiful,” Graham said, after the race. “If they give her a breather (on the lead) they ain’t catching her.”
Istanford became only the third filly to win the Arlington Classic in the long history of the race. Stidham mentioned that the other two races in the series–Grade III $200,000 American Derby on July 12 and the Grade I $500,00 Secretariat Stakes on Aug. 16–could both be on the agenda.
Istanford, a three year-old daughter of Istan, was winning her first graded stake after placed efforts in the Edgewood Stakes and the Grade III Florida Oaks.
Istanford’s success was bookended by wins for Follow the Kitten last Thursday at Arlington, and Big John B today at Churchill Downs.
Follow the Kitten’s victory in the claimer was a clear-cut and decisive affair. Straight to the front with jockey Emmanuel Esquivel on board, the pair coasted to a comfortable three-length victory. This was Follow the Kitten’s first win in six starts, though this consistent filly has only once been out of the first three.
Big John B’s win today was a little more fraught. Trailing the field early on, Big John B made relentless progress down the stretch to close in on Tiz Sardonic Joe, only to find himself on the receiving end of a couple of bumps by that horse. And while Tiz Sardonic Joe flashed past the post in front, the stewards decided afterwards that the interference caused Stidham’s runner a first place finish – awarding him the win post-race.
This win for Big John B was a first for Stidham, and an eighth career victory overall.
Check back in again later this week for a look ahead to the weekend action.