10/21/2012 5:00PM

Keeneland: Upperline closes out career by winning Dowager

Keeneland/Coady Photography
James Graham guides Upperline to a three-quarter-length victory in the 1 1/2-mile Dowager.

LEXINGTON, Ky.  – The 5-year-old mare Upperline went out a winner in what was most likely the final start of her career after wearing down the up-and-comer Ciao Bella in deep stretch of the 1 1/2-mile Dowager Stakes on turf on a sun-splashed Sunday at Keeneland.

Ridden by James Graham, Upperline stayed within closing range of the leaders as they carved out dawdling fractions through the race’s first mile. She began to pick off horses around the final turn, and by the top of the stretch, she had pulled even with Ciao Bella, who had been running freely on the lead for the previous half-mile. When Graham asked her to pick up her head, Upperline  responded earnestly, pulling away to win by three-quarters of a length in a time of 2:32.19 over firm turf.

“She does what she does,” said Graham, who has ridden Upperline in her last nine starts, including a victory in the 1 ½-mile Bewitch Stakes on the grass at Keeneland last spring. “She’s a battle-hardened, tough, tough filly.”

Ciao Bella, a 3-year-old filly trained by Todd Pletcher trying turf for the second time after finishing fourth in her last start, the Grade 1 Garden City Stakes at Belmont, was nearly caught at the wire by a hard-charging Janicellaine but held on for second.

Upperline paid $6 to win as the favorite. With Ciao Bella, the second-choice, the exacta paid $25.60. Janicellaine, the third choice, filled out a $146.60 trifecta.

By Maria’s Mon out of the Caerleon mare Snowflake, Upperline was entered in the Fasig-Tipon November breeding stock sale on Nov. 5 prior to the Dowager. She is owned by a partnership including John Adger, Oakcrest Farm, and Stone Farm.

Arthur Hancock, the owner of Stone Farm, said after the race that “I might be there as a bidder” when the filly goes through the ring next month. Hancock said he owns a quarter of the filly.

“She’s a wonderful filly. Courageous, fought all the way,” he said. “She’s all heart.”

Hancock indicted that the decision to sell the filly was not unanimous among the partners.

“I was fortunate to be able to buy into her,” Hancock said. “She’s done plenty. But this is a tough business, and the owners want to sell her. And that’s the nature of this business. You gotta be able to pay everybody the next week.”

With the $75,000 winner’s share of the Dowager’s $125,000 purse, Upperline has won $772,988 while winning 9 of 25 career starts. She has 5 seconds and 3 thirds as well.

Upperline came into the Dowager after finishing third in the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland two weeks earlier. And despite her turf heavy pedigree, she has  been equally adept on artificial surfaces, with five of her nine career wins coming on artificial tracks, including the Grade 3 Arlington Matron Stakes this summer.