07/03/2010 12:00AM

Upperline extends Stidham's hot hand


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Upperline made a favorable impression as a 2-year-old last summer at Arlington. She was even better Saturday evening, winning the by almost five lengths, and giving trainer Michael Stidham his fourth stakes win of an Arlington season not even at the halfway mark.

Always close to the pace under E.T. Baird, Upperline came off the rail turning for home, turned back a challenge from favored Snow Top Mountain in upper stretch, and drew clear in the final furlong, winning the Grade 3, $100,000 Oaks by 4.75 lengths. Snow Top Mountain finished more than six lengths in front of third-place Dundalk Dust, with pace-setting Chantilly Nayla fading to fourth.

Upperline ($6.60) owned by Stone Farm, John Adger, Oakcrest Stable, and Stidham, was timed in 1:52.13 for 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack.

Saturday's crowd, fueled by a post-races fireworks card, swelled to a reported 32,681.

Upperline, a daughter of Maria's Mon, won her career debut here last summer before finishing second to 2009 2-year-old filly champ She Be Wild in an overnight stakes race. Third in the Golden Rod on dirt last fall at Churchill, and third in the Herecomesthebride on turf over the winter at Gulfstream, Upperline scored her first stakes win in the Arlington Oaks.

Upperline broke well and sat second on the rail for much of the trip, as Chantilly Nayla set fractions of 23.89 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 48.07 for the half, and 1:13.48 for six furlongs. Baird always kept Upperline close enough to the leader to make sure Chantilly Nayla didn't drop over in front of him.

"I didn't want to get caught in behind a slow pace," Baird said.

Snow Top Mountain stalked in fourth most of the way, and ranged up to challenge for the lead at the top of the stretch, but jockey Jesus Castanon said he never got a winning feeling.

"I kind of had to ask my filly to get there," Castanon said.

Upperline came home powerfully -- just like a slew of Stidham-trained stakes runners this year. Stidham already has won 13 stakes in 2010. His decision to freshen Upperline after a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Ashland on April 3 paid off Saturday, with Upperline turning in a career-best performance.