10/19/2012 3:31PM

Keeneland: Upperline takes final bow in Dowager

Four-Footed Fotos
An earner of almost $700,000, Upperline makes her final start Sunday. She will sell at Keeneland November.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Mike Stidham knows when it’s time to say goodbye. He will do so reluctantly, but realistically, after one of the best horses he has ever trained, Upperline, makes her final start Sunday on the Keeneland turf before going off to the sales ring.

Upperline, an earner of nearly $700,000, is the program favorite in a field of 11 fillies and mares set to go 1 1/2 miles in the $100,000 Dowager, the eighth of nine Sunday races. Upperline, a 5-year-old mare by Maria’s Mon, finished a solid third in the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes in her last start Oct. 7.

“She’s been a great mare for us, honest, always willing,” said Stidham. “She’s coming back on just two weeks’ rest, and we’ve never done that with her. But she came out of the race feeling good, eating good, moving good, and I think she deserves one more shot before we sell her. We briefly thought about the Breeders’ Cup [Filly and Mare Turf], but it really seems to be coming up tough this year, so this is our spot.”

Upperline, owned by a four-way partnership that includes Stidham, will sell next month at the Fasig-Tipton November breeding stock sale. After racing primarily in turf or synthetic races of 1 1/8 miles or so for much of her career, she was tried several times by Stidham in turf marathons and has met with success, most notably at Keeneland. She was second in the Dowager last year and won the Grade 3 Bewitch here in the spring.

“We know she can go the mile and a half, so this is kind of a natural thing to bring her back off her good race in the Spinster,” said Stidham.

Jimmy Graham has the mount back aboard Upperline, who was assigned post 10 in the three-turn race and will face a number of capable opponents, most notably an uncoupled duo being sent out by Todd Pletcher. Those two are Bubbly Jane (post 1, Rosie Napravnik) and Ciao Bella (post 9, John Velazquez).

Bubbly Jane, a Brazilian-bred 7-year-old mare, has gone winless for more than three years but keeps knocking on the door, having finished second twice and fourth twice in her four starts this year, all in East Coast stakes company in this turf-marathon niche.

Ciao Bella, one of three 3-year-olds in the Dowager lineup, comes off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Garden City last month at her home track, Belmont Park. The lightly raced gray daughter of Giant’s Causeway will be making just her fifth start.

Other considerations include Janicellaine (post 2, Julien Leparoux) from the always-dangerous Roger Attfield stable, and Senada (post 8, Shaun Bridgmohan), whose victory in the Dowager at 16-1 last year was just the second of her career and remains her last win.

Rounding out the cast are For the Win, Thislilsoulofmine, Maid of Heaven, Revelstoke, Heart of Destiny, and Charming She Is.

The Dowager, sponsored by the Rood and Riddle equine hospital, was first run in 1992. First post Sunday is 1:05 p.m. Eastern, with the feature set for 4:49.

After Sunday, Keeneland goes dark for two days before the final four-day stretch of the 17-day fall meet commences Wednesday. The lone remaining stakes is the Grade 2 Fayette on closing day, Oct. 27.