06/01/2010 11:00PM

Stidham well equipped for summer stakes


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Trainer Mike Stidham has won 4 of 32 races so far this Arlington Park meet, but his stable's win percentage is a study in misrepresentation.

Seventeen other Stidham-trained horses have finished second or third at Arlington for a 21-of-32 top-three strike rate. The Stidham barn also is 2-1-1 in five stakes races and 1-1-1 in three graded stakes races here this spring.

Stidham has been going strong in stakes throughout 2010: Already this year he has won nine, as many as his operation won in 2008 and 2009 combined. Stidham's best stakes haul in a season was 16 in 1999.

Now it is time to start making summer plans for those stakes runners. Tizaqueena, who won the Arlington Matron on Saturday in her synthetic surface debut, is likely to return to turf for her next start. The July 17 Modesty at Arlington became a somewhat less appealing option with the news last weekend that Tuscan Evening, among the top female turf horses in the country this year, could prep for the Beverly D. in the Modesty. Stidham said the July 18 Dance Smartly at Woodbine also will be considered.

The options are several for Tybalt, who closed belatedly behind a slow pace to finish second Saturday in the Hanshin Cup. Tybalt could return in the Grade 2 Firecracker on July 4 at Churchill but also will be considered for grass races at Mountaineer Park and Woodbine around the same time. Gran Estreno, who was third in the Hanshin, will defend his title in the Claiming Crown Emerald at Canterbury Park, Stidham said.

Possible next starts for Arlington Classic winner Workin for Hops have been narrowed to two, the American Derby here July 17 and the Colonial Turf Cup on June 19. Finally, Upperline, fifth in the Grade 1 Ashland in her most recent start, is being pointed to the July 3 Arlington Oaks.

Giant Oak targeting Foster

Giant Oak finished sixth as the even-money favorite in the restricted $100,000

Illinois Owners Stakes here May 15, but Giant Oak was nevertheless on his way from Arlington to Churchill Downs on Wednesday to prepare for much a bigger game, the Grade 1 Stephen Foster on June 12.

The move is not motivated by madness.

Giant Oak won the first two starts of his career in 2008 at Arlington, but he did not do well in turf races here last summer or in the recent Owners stakes. On Churchill's main track, however, Giant Oak has turned in his best work. He rallied from far back to finish second by a neck in the 2008 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, a race won in 2009 by Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver. And last fall, in the Grade 2 Clark Handicap at Churchill, Giant Oak hopped at the start, raced last of 12 down the backstretch while chasing moderate fractions, and still closed to finish fourth, beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Blame, who will be among the Foster favorites.

"I'm going by his performance at Churchill as a 2-year-old and in the Clark there against horses comparable to what he's going to face on June 12," Block said. "It seems like Churchill is his favorite surface."

Giant Oak is scheduled to work Sunday, though his breeze could be pushed back a day in the event of wet conditions, Block said. A rider for the Foster has yet to be secured.

Dominant trio in Grazioso's corner

It looks like Calabrese, Canani, and Alvarado all over again in the featured fourth race here Friday.

Frank Calabrese, running away in the Arlington owner standings, plunked down $50,000 to claim the 3-year-old filly Grazioso in February at Gulfstream. On April 8, she won an entry-level allowance there by more than three lengths, and Grazioso figures to be solidly favored in Friday's fourth race, a second-level Polytrack sprint allowance also open to $40,000 claimers.

Grazioso starts for trainer Nick Canani, who entered this week's racing having won with 15 of 26 starters at the meet. Jockey Junior Alvarado has been aboard 14 of those Canani-trained winners, and on the strength of that association holds a 29-25 lead on Michael Baze in the Arlington jockey standings.