05/24/2012 2:52PM

Arlington: Upperline tries to deliver in second try as Matron favorite

Keeneland/Coady Photography
Upperline comes into Saturday's Arlington Matron off a win in the Bewitched at Keeneland.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Upperline is the horse to beat Saturday in the Grade 3, $150,000 Arlington Matron Stakes, but that also was the case in the 2011, when Upperline could only finish fourth as the 2-1 Matron favorite. And the longer one looks at this year’s Matron, a 1 1/8-mile Polytrack race, the wider grows the range of plausible outcomes. A win by Hemera would qualify as somewhat shocking, but some sort of case can be made for each of the other six entrants.

As for 5-year-old Upperline, her last start produced a 1 1/2-length victory in the Bewitch, a 1 1/2-mile grass race at Keeneland in which Upperline pressed a glacial pace. The Matron, too, appears to be a paceless affair, and trainer Mike Stidham won’t mind if Upperline winds up on the front end.

“Just like what happened in the Bewitch, we’re happy to break and if we find ourselves on the lead, we’ll go from there,” Stidham said. “We don’t care if she’s in front.”

Kathmanblu and La Gran Bailadora, the two-three finishers in the April 20 Doubledogdare Stakes over Keeneland’s Polytrack, are entered in the Matron, and with Pachattack – who won the Doubledogdare and romped in the 2011 Matron – passing Saturday’s race, both could contend. Kathmanblu was making her first start in six months when she set a moderate pace and held second in the Doubledogdare but she has never won on a synthetic surface. La Gran Bailadora, a distant second in the 2011 Matron, lacks brilliance but almost always runs her race.

Two other mares who started during April at Keeneland, Ariana D and Sea Level Drive, also are possibilities. Synthetic-surface specialist Ariana D finished second behind the awesome Groupie Doll in the seven-furlong Madison Stakes, and though the bulk of her races have come in sprints, she has run well in periodic route tries.

“Seven furlongs seems to really suit her, but the way she trains and runs, I don’t see the distance being a problem,” said Andrew McKeever, who took over Ariana D’s training this spring. “She gallops out strong and finishes well in her breezes.”

Sea Level Drive was a flat fourth in the Doubledogdare, the worst of her five Polytrack starts, but won a 2011 Arlington main-track allowance race by almost 13 lengths and seems well suited to the Matron’s nine-furlong distance.

“She came out of that last race well, and we checked every avenue we could check because we thought she’d gone in there ready for a very good race,” said trainer Rusty Arnold. “We’re just going to throw that one out and see if maybe she can have a better day.”