04/26/2012 5:57PM

Keeneland: Upperline ovecomes slow pace to capture Bewitch

Keeneland/Coady Photography
Upperline, ridden by James Graham, wins the Bewitched by 1 1/2 lengths.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – When jockey James Graham allowed Upperline to drop back from first to third in a slow-paced running of Thursday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland, her connections and those that bet her had a right to feel anxious.

Luckily, Graham and Upperline never showed the nerves those watching might have felt, and she rallied in the stretch under Graham to win by 1 1/2  lengths over Woodford Belle.

Trainer and co-owner Mike Stidham smiled in a winner’s circle interview when asked if he had become concerned when Upperline was allowed to fall back off the dawdling pace.

“I can say now that I had total confidence in James,” he quipped.

The winner, a 5-year-old daughter of Maria’s Mon, raced 1 1/2 miles over a firm course in 2:33.28, a slow time that was partially the result the snail-like fractions of 54.01 seconds, 1:19.79, and 1:44.66 that were set. She paid $6.

Graham, in the midst of a successful spring meet at Keeneland, said Upperline took the lead by default when she broke well, and when the opportunity arose to ease her back when Shimmering Moment came alongside after a half-mile, he took the opportunity to rate her.

“She’s better with a little bit of a target,” he said.

She still needed to find room in the end, doing so with approximately three-sixteenths of a mile remaining, and she outquickened her opponents late.

Woodford Belle, wide for much of the race, performed well as the runner-up, finishing three -quarters of a length in front of Senada, who had surged from a stalking position to take the lead into early stretch.

The favored Here to Win ran fourth, and was followed by Thislilsoulofmine, Shimmering Moment, Distorted Alice, and Hemera.

Upperline’s Bewitch score, her second graded victory, increased her earnings to $497,108 for a partnership that includes Stidham, Oak Crest Farm, John Adger, and Stone Farm.

Thursday attendance was 11,253, pushing cumulative attendance this spring to 251,909 - the highest meet attendance, spring or fall, in track history. One day of racing remains at Keeneland this spring before Churchill Downs gets underway Saturday.

With Friday being closing day, bettors are reminded there is a mandatory is payout in pick five and Super Hi 5 wagers.