Stidham looks to keep momentum going at Arlington

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TwinSpires Staff

May 16th, 2016

Edited Arlington press release

In all his 37 years in the business Mike Stidham had never landed a title at any race meet. That all changed this past winter when Stidham secured his first leading trainer title at Fair Grounds.

“When we went into that meet we had just lost one our biggest clients, Ike & Dawn Thrash who we won the Grade I [Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup] for at Keeneland, and that was 12 good horses out of the barn,” Stidham said.

“So when we went into Fair Grounds, [my assistant trainer] Hilary and I we were talking to each other like, ‘we’re in trouble, we’re gonna have a horrible meet’. Then all of a sudden, entries started going and we started winning. We were on top and we’re like, ‘well this can’t last.’ We had some help because Steve Asmussen focused more on Oaklawn, where normally he was one of the leading trainers [at Fair Grounds].

Yet last it did. Over the 81-day meet the Stidham barn won 38 races from a total of 186 starts, beating out trainers Joe Sharp and Tom Amoss by only a handful of wins.

“Bottom line was things just came together; the condition book worked for us there,” continued Stidham. “We had horses with quite a few conditions. We had a Louisiana-bred named Jockamo’s Song that won four races at the meet.

“Everything fell into place, and it’s hard to really say why it goes that way sometimes – just like when you can’t seem to get it going, you wonder, ‘well am I doing anything different?’ but they’re not running any good and it’s hard to really put your finger on why.

“It just seems like the barn is into a real good groove right now. It’s sort of like that snowball that is gaining momentum, and the better you do, the more people start calling and wanting you to train for them. We just picked up eight [2-year-olds] for Godolphin, and that was big. But we’re just getting a lot of good support from the people that have been supporting us for a long time.”

Stidham has a plethora of horses in his barn, but doesn’t seem to mind taking on even more for the summer meet at Arlington International Racecourse. He relishes the opportunity to work with 2-year-olds, bringing them into the game and getting them to the races.

“What’s really cool are the young horses, to develop a young horse, and we’ve been lucky to develop some nice horses like Willcox Inn and Upperline,” Stidham said. “That’s fun to see them start as a baby, and watch them turn into nice horses.

“[The Godolphin 2-year-olds] just arrived three days ago, and they’ve been breezing in Ocala, so all of them are pretty far along. I’m hoping some of them [will be ready to run] within a month. They’ve been out of the gate, they’ve already been three-eighths, so they’re progressing. They all progress at different levels and different time frames, but I think maybe in a month or six weeks we could be running some of those.”

Stidham’s barn is already off to a good start at Arlington, leading all trainers with eight wins at the beginning of racing on Sunday. The trainer can find success at many different tracks, but he enjoys the summer meeting and the opportunity to work his horses over the Polytrack.

“Nearly all of our horses all train on the Poly, we’re big believers in the Poly. One of the reasons I keep coming back to Arlington is I love training on the Poly. I think with day-in day-out wear and tear, it’s easier on the horses. Not every horse loves to run on it, but to train on it I think it’s easier on them. I believe in it, so I don’t take many to the training track. I also love to be able to work the grass horses on the grass here when the weather’s good.”

With his first title under his belt, Stidham seems confident about the remainder of the season. He expects to gain more ground as the meeting goes on.

“Here, coming in, I felt a lot better than I did going into the Fair Grounds because we’ve got a lot of horses with conditions here also, plus we’re getting the 2-year-olds in and I’m really liking what I’m seeing with them. I think we’re starting off good; we’ve got the momentum and if the 2-year-olds progress like I think they might, we’ll have some help from the middle to the end of the meet with them. I think we have a good shot to have another really good meet.”

Photo from Stidham Racing on Facebook.