Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Thursday, May 10, 2012

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/14/2012 #

In Today's Notes: Arlington's Mid-America Triple May Loom Again for Mike Stidham; Torres, Rivelli Lead Arlington's Jockey, Trainer Standings

For two years straight, trainer Mike Stidham has captured the first two legs of Arlington's Mid-America Triple before coming up short in its final challenge during Arlington's International Festival of Racing.

Might the 54-year-old conditioner who bases the bulk of his stable at Arlington during the summer months be in a position to try again? Could the third time be the charm?

It's an elusive quest – the Triple sweep – in fact it has only been done once in its present all-turf format. That was 15-years ago, when Richard Schaedle III's Honor Glide accomplished the feat by taking the Arlington Classic, the American Derby and finally the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on Arlington Million Day in 1997.

Furthermore, since then only two horses have even captured the Triple's first two legs, but Estrorace's Workin for Hops won the Arlington Classic and the American Derby in 2010 and All In Stable's Willcox Inn equaled that accomplishment last summer. Both, as said, were trained by Stidham. Unfortunately, both failed when they went to the post in the Secretariat, where Workin for Hops finished third and Willcox Inn ran fourth.

However, this summer Stidham is back at Arlington again with a sophomore who seems to show more potential on the grass than when he started his career on the main track last winter at Fair Grounds. That would be a speedy son of Artie Schiller named Hammers Terror, who races in the silks of Canadian owner Terry Hamilton.

After running sixth in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes on the main track in New Orleans, Stidham introduced his colt to the lawn in Fair Grounds' $75,000 Black Gold Stakes, where he finished fourth under the wire but was subsequently placed third due to his troubled trip. Brought back in Keeneland's Grade III Coolmore Lexington Stakes on Polytrack April 21, Hammers Terror finished a competitive third despite being kept wide throughout and being bumped at the start.

Now, the Kentucky-bred sophomore out of a Lord Avie mare is in residence at Arlington, and Stidham has him under consideration for the 78th running of the Arlington Classic May 26.

"I still think Hammers Terror has potential," Stidham said this week at Arlington after returning from a brief trip to Belmont Park where he is stabling 15 horses. "I still think he might turn into a good grass horse, but I won't know until I can get a better reading on him when and if he ever gets trouble-free trip. That's why I'm keeping the Arlington Classic out there as a possibility for him."

Stidham comes into Arlington this season following an extremely successful spring meeting at Keeneland, where he won the Grade III Bewitch Stakes with Stone Farm et al.'s Upperline and the $100,000 Giant's Causeway with Prime Equestrian's Flash Mash. Upperline, by the way, who won the 2010 Arlington Oaks here, is under consideration for the Grade III Arlington Matron, to be run on May 26 on the same day as the Arlington Classic but over Arlington's Polytrack surface,

It should be noted, however, that also under consideration for Upperline May 26 is Belmont's Grade II Sheepshead Bay, run at 11 furlongs over the Long Island lawn.

Last Sunday at Arlington, third day of the young season, Stidham registered back-to-back tallies with Thad Ackel's Mop Head in the fifth and Terry Hamilton and Robert Morgan's Gleam of Hope in the sixth, and he is currently tied for second in the Arlington trainer standings.

"It's good to be back at Arlington." Stidham said. "This will be my base of operations once again. I have a lot more horses stabled here than I have in New York. Also, I've got a pretty diversified group here right now – some stakes horses and some maidens with potential. Unfortunately, Willcox Inn won't be back and ready to run again until sometime midway through the summer."

Chicago-raised Francisco Torres, returning to his hometown oval after years on other circuits, has jumped to an early lead in Arlington's jockey standings, while Chicago-born and raised Larry Rivelli is currently on top in the local trainer standings after four racing days.

Torres, 43, has not competed regularly at Arlington since the summer of 2006, but that year he dueled for the lead in the local jockey standings until the waning days of the session.

In contrast, Rivelli, 41, is Arlington's defending trainer champion, officially capturing his first local title on the penultimate day of the 2011 season.

Torres, who scored a riding triple in three successive races Wednesday, enters Friday's race day with five wins, two more than his nearest pursuers.

Rivelli, who had a training double Wednesday, comes into Friday's races with four wins, one more than the three conditioners currently tied for the runner-up spot.