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Barn Notes: Sunday, July 20, 2014

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/20/2014 #
  • Up with the Birds wins the Grade I Jamaica over Secretariat winner Admiral Kitten (image courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese)

In Today’s Notes: Arlington Oaks Top Three Exit Well, Turf-bound; Up with the Birds Eyes Million

ARLINGTON OAKS TOP THREE EXIT WELL, TURF-BOUND
James Miller’s Grade III $150,000 Arlington Oaks winner Aurelia’s Belle has exited her victory no worse for the wear, according to her connections.  The daughter of Lemon Drop Kid asserted her class at the top of the stretch in the 1 1/8-miles event and went on to score by three-quarters of a length over a game Stellaris for trainer Wayne Catalano. 

“She’s doing alright and came out good,” Catalano confirmed.  The 11-time champion trainer also confirmed that a return to turf racing is in the future of the bay filly and that the Grade III $150,000 Pucker Up Stakes on Sept. 13 may be on her radar. 

The same can be said for runner-up Stellaris.  The daughter of Harlan’s Holiday outran her seasoning to post a game defeat in what was only her fifth career start and first in a graded stakes.  The dark bay filly made up 2¾ lengths on the winner in the final eighth of a mile for trainer Mike Stidham. 

Speaking from Del Mar, where he ran Grade III Arlington Classic winner Istanford to victory in the Grade II San Clemente Stakes yesterday, Stidham was elated with Stellaris’ performance.  “I spoke to (assistant trainer) Hillary this morning and she said she looked great coming out of the race.  I thought she ran a great race and certainly (Aurelia’s Belle) is a proven, very nice filly.  I was very pleased.”

Co-owned by breeder Tom Van Meter, Stellaris may try turf racing after three attempts on Polytrack and two on dirt.  “I think she might be better on turf than poly,” Stidham assessed.  “We’ll probably nominate to some dirt races, too, to keep our options open.  The fact that we now know she can go a mile and an eighth is nice to have.”

Holmark Stable’s Arlington Oaks third-place finisher She’s Offlee Good came out of her game performance in excellent shape, according to trainer Richie Scherer. “She’s came out well – absolutely,” he exclaimed.  “She wasn’t giving up much at the end and was clearly third-best and (Aurelia’s Belle and Stellaris) were clearly better than me. The last six weeks or so she started really coming back to herself. I think she loves training at Arlington.  I’m really proud of her.  We’ll keep her at home and try her on the grass, with our tentative goal being the ($75,000) Hatoof Stakes (on Aug. 16).

Stidham, himself, had a superb Saturday of racing nationwide.  In addition to finishing second in the Arlington Oaks and winning the San Clemente, he was a photo-finish second in the Ohio Derby at Thistledown with Jessica’s Star and won a tough turf maiden in Arlington’s nightcap with the promising Candy Ride filly Helen Kathleen. 

“It was an unbelievable day.  With (Istanford), you never know how they’re going to run over that kind of turf (at Del Mar) until they run on it,” Stidham explained.  “There was also concern over the fact that California speed is very different.  You never know how it’s going to set up, but she got out there and comfortable and I couldn’t believe it.” 

The tentative plan with Istanford, according to the conditioner, is the Grade I $300,000 Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 16.   The veteran conditioner also expressed that the loss at the wire in the Ohio Derby was “heartbreaking,” but he was pleased with the performance.  Stidham’s streak of stakes purse money collection could continue on Sunday as he enters recent ultra-impressive Arlington maiden winner Pirate’s Trove in the $125,000 Duchess Stakes at Woodbine.

UP WITH THE BIRDS EYES MILLION
One of the most eye-catching performances in North America Saturday was that of Sam-Son Farm’s Up with the Birds in the Grade II Nijinsky Stakes at Woodbine.  The reigning Canadian Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male defeated a solid field of six turf males – all stakes winners, including Grade I Breeders’ Cup Mile runner-up Za Approval – with absolute ease.  The bay son of Stormy Atlantic was ridden out to a facile four-length win by Eurico Rosa da Silva in a performance that puts the possibility of the Grade I Arlington Million squarely in sight.

“I didn’t think he was going to win that easily going in, but I was pleasantly surprised with how easily he did it,” remarked trainer Malcolm Pierce.  “He is happy in his stall right now and he definitely knows he won.  Right now everything is good.”

Leading into the Nijinsky, Up with the Birds had failed in two 2014 starts as the public’s wagering choice.  In his seasonal debut, a salty Keeneland allowance with four stakes winners, he failed to rally and finished sixth and last on April 6.  Subsequently entered in the Grade II Dixie Stakes on the Preakness undercard (May 17), he finished on the tail end of a six-horse blanket finish.

“The Pimlico race was better than it looked and he needed his first race at Keeneland,” Pierce explained.  “He’s not a big work horse in the morning, so those races really helped him get into shape.  There wasn’t a good race for him until (the Nijinsky), so we planned after the Dixie to aim for it.

“As far as the Million, I’ll talk with the owners over the next couple days,” he continued. “It’s four weeks away and I’ll leave it up to them.  We also have the (Grade II $200,000) Sky Classic Stakes here (at Woodbine, Aug. 16) as an option.  I have another very good horse in Aldous Snow and we’ll want to separate those two.  The aim is the (Grade I) Canadian International (on Oct. 19).”  Aldous Snow recently annexed the Grade III Singspiel Stakes on July 6 over 12 furlongs.  The last time Up with the Birds shipped to the States for a Grade I event, he gamely collected the Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park last October.