Keeneland

Upperline wins Keeneland feature two weeks before she goes up for sale

Upperline, left, won the Rood and Riddle Dowager at Keeneland on Sunday. She outran Ciao Bella, right, down the stretch. James Graham rode the winner for trainer Mike Stidham.
Upperline, left, won the Rood and Riddle Dowager at Keeneland on Sunday. She outran Ciao Bella, right, down the stretch. James Graham rode the winner for trainer Mike Stidham. Keeneland Photo

Though her catalog page for the upcoming Fasig-Tipton November horse sale has already been printed, Upperline was bound and determined Sunday to provide one last sterling update for potential buyers to ponder.

In her final career start before being sent through the ring at Fasig-Tipton on Nov. 5, the 5-year-old Upperline showed how much class is still in her when she fought off Ciao Bella during a determined stretch run to claim the $125,000 Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes by three quarters of a length over the Keeneland turf.

The ninth victory of Upperline's 25-race career broke a four-race losing skid and came two weeks after the daughter of Maria's Mon had run third in Keeneland's Grade I Juddmonte Spinster.

The mare — who counts the Grade III Bewitch at Keeneland this April among her victories in graded stakes races — bounced out of that effort with enough energy to convince her connections one more shot at a swan song was warranted.

"She's a wonderful filly, courageous and fought all the way," said Arthur Hancock, who owns Upperline along with John Adger, Jack Hodge and trainer Mike Stidham. "She was all heart today. Mike (Stidham) said she was doing well after the Spinster so we figured it was right here; she likes Keeneland and was worth taking the shot."

With regular rider James Graham in the saddle one last time, Upperline tracked along on the outside throughout the 11/2-mile test, sitting just off of Ciao Bella as For the Win cut an opening half mile in :51.07.

When Ciao Bella advanced to overtake the pacesetter approaching the final turn, Upperline went with her on the outside and those two were nearly three lengths clear of the rest of the 11-horse field entering the stretch.

"James rode her great and she's a great mare," Stidham said. "We're just sorry we hadn't started running her a mile and a half a long time ago. She's been a superstar from the beginning."

Although Ciao Bella drifted out slightly toward her from the inside during the stride-for-stride stretch, Upperline finally edged away late to reward backers that made her the 2-to-1 favorite, hitting the line in 2:32.19 over a firm turf course. Janicellaine was a neck back of Ciao Bella for third.

With $772,988 in career earnings and enough pedigree to back up her on-track efforts, the consignors hope Upperline has ample suitors — though they may have to battle some familiar connections to get her.

"I might be in there as a bidder," Hancock said. "I own a fourth of her. I love this filly and she showed today all the heart in the world. I shouldn't talk too much, because someone might outbid me."

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