10/21/2011 1:17PM

Keeneland: Upperline looks to rebound in Dowager Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Upperline returns to turf for Sunday's $125,000 Dowager Stakes.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Who was that bay filly masquerading as Upperline at Turfway Park? Surely not the real thing as far as trainer Mike Stidham is concerned.

“I’ve never seen her run a race like that before,” said Stidham, referring to a dreadful last-place finish as the even-money favorite four weeks ago in the Kentucky Cup Distaff. “She just never got a hold of the Polytrack at all.”

Duly regrouped, Upperline will try to return to the form that led earlier this season to three stakes wins and a solid run in the Grade 1 Beverly D. when she stretches out Sunday to 1 1/2 miles on the Keeneland turf in the 20th running of the $125,000 Dowager Stakes.

“She’s shown she’s good enough for the competition she’ll be facing,” Stidham said. “She came out of the last race great, and she’s had a couple of really good works since. Obviously the big X-factor is the distance. She’s never been this far, but she certainly has the breeding to handle it.”

Upperline, by Maria’s Mon out of a Caerleon mare, is one of 12 fillies and mares in the Dowager, which, like so many preceding stakes at this 17-day meet, shapes up with extraordinary depth. Upperline, with Jimmy Graham to ride, figures as one of a handful of top contenders when breaking from post 10 in the three-turn race.

Upperline isn’t the only well regarded filly trying to rebound off a disappointing effort. Cheetah, who never entered contention in her last start in the Aug. 13 Beverly D., has been pegged as the 3-1 favorite when starting from post 1 under Garrett Gomez. Cheetah shows three steady breezes at her Belmont Park base in working up to this for Christophe Clement, who also will send out Endless Expanse (post 8, Jeffrey Sanchez) as a separate wagering interest.

Others in with solid chances include Senada (post 2), a consistent filly trained by Barclay Tagg; Hasay (post 5), a last-out winner of the Omnibus at Monmouth Park for Graham Motion; Miss Laa di Da (post 7), a first-level allowance winner at Belmont Park last out for Jonathan Sheppard; and Askbut I Won’ttell (post 11), an honest Chicago-based mare who gets the meet’s leading rider in Julien Leparoux.

Longshots rounding out the field are Grecian Maiden, Malibu Win, Royal Madame, Speak Easy Gal, and Dyani.

Two allowances precede the Dowager on a nine-race Sunday card. Zeb is a lukewarm morning-line favorite in race 5, a $54,000, second-level turf sprint, while Happy Week and Fortune Play are the choices in race 7, a $59,000 classified race at seven furlongs on the Polytrack. First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.

After Sunday, Keeneland goes dark for two days before the final four-day stretch of the meet commences Wednesday. The lone remaining stakes is the Grade 2, $150,000 Fayette on the closing-day card next Saturday, Oct. 29.

The Dowager, sponsored by the Rood and Riddle equine hospital, was won last year by Casablanca Smile, trained by Shug McGaughey.