Sunday, May 25, 2014

Arlington International Barn Notes: Sunday, May 25

                                Contact: Michael Adolphson
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Barn Notes:  Sunday, May 25, 2014      
In Today's Notes: 
  • Colt-Conquering Istanford to Consider Round Two vs. Boys
  • Runaway Matron Winner La Tia Takes Aim on Another Matron
  • Nikki's Sandcastle to Return for More Arlington Glory this Summer

        Ike and Dawn Thrash and Sam and Janet Alley's Istanford, who became the first filly to beat the boys in the Saturday's Grade III $150,000 Arlington Classic – the first leg of the Mid-America Triple – since it was moved to the grass in 1994, appears no worse for the wear. "She looked good today and came out of the race very well," trainer Mike Stidham reported.
        After bouncing quickly out of the gate and setting a moderate pace, the daughter of Istan held off a battalion of boys in the stretch drive to register a one-length victory under James Graham.  "I wasn't surprised she ran as well as she did, but I was surprised that (Solitary Ranger) wasn't making a stronger bid for the lead," Stidham said.  "When he didn't make it and we made the lead that easily and we were :24 and :49, I felt great.  When I saw the 1:14 (for six furlongs), I knew we had a huge shot."
        As far as the future for the two-time Arlington winner, she may attempt the second leg of the series, the Grade III $200,000 American Derby on July 12.  "What we try to do with our stakes horses is nominate all over the country and then go where the suitable race is for our horse," Stidham continued.  "If it fits, we usually go.  We'll nominate for the American Derby and see how it comes up."
        The American Derby is at 1 3/16-miles on the Arlington turf – an eighth of a mile farther than the Classic – and thus would present an added stamina challenge.  "I really do feel like she can stretch her speed," explained Stidham.  "If she gets fractions like she did yesterday and is able to relax like that, I see no problem why she can't go up to a mile and a quarter." 
Speaking of 10 furlongs, another race that may be on her radar is the newly reconfigured Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational – previously the Garden City Stakes – on July 5 at Belmont Park.  "It's an invitational and she would have to be invited, obviously, but I wouldn't mind that – mostly because it would give us more options," Stidham said.
After trying different surfaces against some of the best fillies of her generation since her August debut victory at Arlington, Saturday's grassy success was a sweet one for Stidham.  "I think we're pretty well convinced that she's a turf horse.  We've done our dirt and poly experiments, but all along I've thought she was a grass horse.  We're not going to question that, now," he explained. 
"It was also a very cool win for the filly to beat the colts," Stidham raved.  "We won with Willcox Inn (2011) and Workin for Hops (2010).  We love winning at Arlington – this is home."

        Hernandez Racing Club's Multiple Illinois champion La Tia has exited her runaway victory in yesterday's Grade III $150,000 Arlington Matron well, according to her conditioner Armando De La Cerda.  "She looks okay – so far so good.  It was much better than after the last race, when she was very tired," he said.  "She ate all her food.  She seems very happy right now."
Ridden by E. T. Baird for the first time, the granddaughter of Storm Cat went right to the front and clicked off :24 second quarters until reaching the stretch and pulling away from her foes to register a 6¼-length victory.  The win was her sixth at Arlington International Racecourse and seventh overall. 
"(Baird) rode her perfect.  He broke on top and got the horse behind to follow him by about a length.  He got her to relax and never had to go too quickly," De La Cerda explained. "At the quarter pole, he looked around and just let her go turning for home.  She is very fast, but she doesn't have to go that fast on the lead and he is a very good speed rider."
After a tough loss on May 9 to stakes horse Every Way in a 1 1/16-miles allowance, La Tia was coming off a short 15-day layoff for her connections.  In that race, though, she set testing fractions of :45.60 and 1:10.14.  "She was tired after the race and went too fast.  She layed down in her stall as soon as she got back.  But, then she got better and better.  And (on race day) was quiet, happy and relaxed."
De La Cerda's stress of his charge's short rest and being bet down to 8-5 favoritism was further agitated before the start when another horse's shoe repair necessitated a delay.  Since the horses were already on the track at the time, jockeys were required to dismount until the issue could be resolved.  "When the jockey got off, La Tia started sweating and was upset and it stressed me out too, but she ran her race," De La Cerda said with relief.
"Next we will look at the ($100,000 Illinois-restricted) Lincoln Heritage Handicap (on June 21) on the grass here for something a little easier and then maybe the (Grade III $150,000 Ontario Matron on July 26) up in Canada on the Poly," De La Cerda said. After such, he may consider another crack at the Grade I Beverly D. Stakes over 1 3/16-miles on Aug. 16.  "It might be a little too far for her, but you never know.  She ran so well at a mile and an eighth yesterday."
        Celebrated warhorse and popular victor in yesterday's Grade III $150,000 Hanshin Cup, Nikki's Sandcastle has emerged from his 40th start and 10th career victory in fine form, according to trainer David Kassen.  "He has come out great.  I didn't get to see it in person.  I sent him up there and I watched it on TV.  I thought he ran very well.  He got banged around a bit, but it didn't seem to affect him too much."
Winning the fifth stakes of his career, the chestnut son of Castledale with a noticeable white blaze has been with Kassen his entire career.  "He's just a really good horse.  He's underrated by a lot of people," Kassen explained.  "He's had so many bad trips and should have a better record than he's got.  I was very proud of him." 
After breaking in midpack from the 5-hole, the Richard Sherman homebred settled about eight lengths off the rapid pace before slowly moving up on the outside and hitting the leading flight turning for home.  After being bumped considerably by Pass the Dice at the top of the stretch, the unwavering Nikki's Sandcastle hit the lead and subsequently held off a charging Mister Marti Gras by a half-length under Leandro Goncalves. 
"He's just as good or better than he's ever been at age seven.  Riders usually lose the race on him in the first part of the race – on the first turn (in two turns races)," Kassen explained.  "He can show speed, but he doesn't want to run that way, but you can't shuffle him back and have him in last.  (Goncalves) rode him well."  The latter statement may be putting it lightly, considering that Nikki's Sandcastle's first graded stakes placing and only two graded stakes wins have come under Goncalves.
A versatile horse in the vast older horse division, Nikki's Sandcastle has a plethora of options for his connections to mull over.  "There's a lot of races, but we're leaning toward the (Grade III $200,000)  Arlington Handicap (on July 12) at a mile and a quarter on the grass," Kassen said.  "It might be too much distance for him, but he's doing very well.  We'll also look at the (Grade II $200,000) Firecracker Stakes at Churchill.  Later on in the season, though, we'll aim toward the (Grade III $150,000) Washington Park Handicap (on Aug. 30 at Arlington).  He really likes the Polytrack there."
David ZennerSenior Manager of Communications
Arlington International Racecourse
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