Keeneland

Upperline returns to form in Grey Goose Bewitch Stakes

Upperline, center, ridden by James Graham, won as the 2-1 second choice Thursday in the Grade III Grey Goose Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland.
Upperline, center, ridden by James Graham, won as the 2-1 second choice Thursday in the Grade III Grey Goose Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland.

There are some horses who, as they age, begin to lose a step.

In the case of Upperline, her seasoning may be the reason she is finally finding her best stride.

The 5-year-old daughter of Maria's Mon notched her first graded-stakes win since 2010 Thursday when she split foes inside the final furlong and drew off in the lane to win the Grade III Grey Goose Bewitch Stakes by 11/2 lengths over the Keeneland turf.

Upperline hadn't won in four starts since taking the Trillium Stakes at Woodbine in June. The bay mare had, however, kept herself in admirable company, finishing fifth beaten just 4 lengths by eventual champion Stacelita in the Grade I Beverly D. in August.

In her second outing this year, Upperline led the eight-horse field past the grandstand for the first time in the 11/2-mile test before taking back and saving ground on the inside path while Shimmering Moment clocked the opening half in :54.01.

Senada came up on the outside to challenge and take over the lead coming off the turn for the final time, but she was reeled in by a hard-running Upperline coming down the middle of the track.

"She finished really well," jockey James Graham said after booting home the 2-1 second choice. "She's better with a little bit of a target but because she broke so sharp, I just let her run the first quarter of a mile. She's so good right now, and she finished the way she was supposed to."

Upperline hit the wire in a leisurely 2:33.28 over a course rated firm. Woodford Belle was second, three quarters of a length ahead of Senada who backed up to third.

Upperline is trained by Michael Stidham, who also owns her in partnership with Arthur Hancock, John Adger and Jack Hodge.

The Stonerside-bred mare won two of her first three career starts and was fifth in the 2010 Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland before taking the Grade III Arlington Oaks in July of that year.

The only time Upperline finished off the board in 10 subsequent outings came when she faced graded-stakes company. Now that she's back over the hump, another shot at top-level competition could be on the horizon.

"We've always thought that when she matured and got to this point we would try and focus on these kind of races," Stidham said. "She's blossomed, she's gotten so much broader and bigger. We're not really sure what is next but we've got some thoughts of the Beverly D. again."

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