06/10/2013 3:37PM

Arlington Park: Stidham gets to play best game - sprinting on turf


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – It’s a chicken-versus-egg question, considering why certain trainers do well in certain kinds of races. Are their training methods tailored to help horses succeed in such situations? Or are the horses coming into their program naturally suited to the races?

Trainer Mike Stidham weighed in on the subject years ago, asked, one day, what made him a good turf trainer. “Having turf horses,” came the reply.

In that case, Stidham the last few years has seen not just capable turf horses, but naturally capable turf sprinters pass through his stables. Daily Racing Form trainer stats show Stidham hitting at a 27 percent strike rate with a $2.30 return on investment with his last 74 turf-sprint starters. Both numbers sit well above Stidham’s overall figures and are applicable to the Wednesday card at Arlington, where Stidham has turf-sprint entrants in two allowance races.

The first is Lady Chesterfield, who returns from a layoff of almost 10 months in featured race 2, a second-level allowance also open to $40,000 claimers and carded for about five furlongs on grass. Lady Chesterfield, a 6-year-old mare who starts under the race’s claiming option, ran well on Arlington Polytrack last summer, but her most recent win came in, yes, a turf sprint. That was back on March 3, 2012, at Fair Grounds, but the race was at the same class level as Wednesday’s. Lady Chesterfield clearly fits the spot if she returns on her game, and a series of encouraging workouts suggest she will.

A main rival is Taty’s Gold, well drawn on the far outside to employ her early speed and hailing from another barn – that of Mike Dini – that for whatever reason excels in grass sprints. Dini has won at an 18 percent clip with a $1.84 ROI in such races, figures well above his overall pars.

There are two first-level turf allowance races on the card, including race 6, a five-furlong dash in which Stidham has an entrant. Stidham trains Lollipop, an Argentine import who switched from sprints on dirt and synthetic and won a conditioned-claiming turf sprint at Arlington in his most recent start. Lollipop, however, is a front-running sort, of which there are several in the race, and the pick to win is Jost Van Dyke, a 6-year-old gelding by a stallion, Van Nistelrooy, whose offspring tend to do very well – in turf sprints.