Features

“A day in the life…” That’s how Mike Stidham starts off the conversation while checking on one of his three venues Thursday morning. Stidham and his partner, Hilary Pridham, were at Monmouth Park, looking over 65 horses with assistant Ben Trask. Pick another day and they might be overseeing their 48 horses at Fair Hill Training Center. In a few weeks, they’ll be at Keeneland to see assistant TC Stuckey and their 10-horse brigade. After that, perhaps, Colonial Downs with a projected 20 for the Virginia meet. 

Stidham compiled his best season in 2019, winning 109 races for $4.5 million. It was the third time he had notched 100 wins and first time he eclipsed the $4 million mark in earnings since beginning his training career in 1979. This year, he’s won 43 races for $1.3 million. Those numbers will certainly ascend as Monmouth Park, Colonial Downs, Saratoga and other lucrative summer meets get underway. 

In Stidham’s words to The Special’s Sean Clancy, “Let’s kick this thing off…” 

Alms: Godolphin homebred won her first four starts, including the Grade 3 Matron and Jimmy Durante, before finishing fifth in the Tepin Stakes May 23. “She was one of those blinking lights, as soon as she came in, she impressed us. Her talent was always there, being a City Zip, we went straight to the grass, started out sprinting, won the Matron. Off two 6-furlong races, we sent her to California to win the Grade 3. Just very talented, very athletic, a real light-bodied filly who looks like a reindeer, but she is ultra-talented. Her last race coming off a gap, she didn’t have the best trip, she’s more a free-running filly, she was bottled up, when she got clear she didn’t have the same kick. We’re hoping to rebound in the Appalachian at Keeneland.” 

Micheline: Three-year-old daughter of Bernardini and Panty Raid owns three wins, including the Honey Ryder Stakes in her most recent start. The Godolphin homebred is 8-1 in the Regret at Churchill Downs Saturday. “She came into us and we were told by David Scanlon if you put her in a stall inside the barn, she won’t walk the stall, she will run the stall. She had been living in a round pen on his farm, leaving her out at night. We had to figure that out. Luckily she was at Fair Hill, we had two covered outdoor wash racks and we had the carpenter come up and build us a stall. Beautiful stall, rubber siding, half-high wall, we put her in there, put the pony on the other side, never had a problem, it was a match made in heaven. We liked her enough to take her to Saratoga for her first start, we don’t venture out like that unless we really like one, she came running that day in a tough maiden at Saratoga (and finished third). Then came back and broke her maiden in the Sorority at Monmouth. She’s been a project but well worth the trouble. She went to Tampa with Ben, we had to buy an outdoor stall with a roof over it, you can collapse it and travel with it. We had to have that stall shipped to Churchill, they were nice enough to allow us to put the stall up under a tree on that grassy area between the barns. She’s a story. She won the Honey Ryder, ran huge, we think the mile-and-an-eighth will definitely help her, she’s got a big, huge, pretty stride.”

Pixelate: Godolphin homebred hasn’t finished worse than third in nine starts at six tracks, earned a third in the Audubon last weekend. “He’s an ultra-consistent horse. Started off at Arlington, ran a couple of OK races, when we got him going long on the grass, he started picking his head up. We took him to New York, he was second in the Awad, came back and won the Central Park at Aqueduct. Just a hard-knocking, ultra-consistent horses, the kind you would like to have a barn full of. The Kent (at Delaware Park) might come up with a short field, there’s a chance we could wheel him back in two weeks. It’s not definite.”

Synchrony: The stalwart. Veteran owns nine wins, including six graded stakes, from 28 starts for owner/breeder Pin Oak Stud. “He’s been the star of the barn for a few years now. We’re 40 some thousand away from getting him to be a millionaire. We don’t have his next race picked out yet but we’re searching hard for it. He’s a 7-year-old, this will probably be his last year, he’s been a barn favorite since forever. He’s one of those horses who could be on the cover of The Blood Horse. He’s so beautiful, he’s just the biggest, strongest, proudest horse you could ever imagine. Donnie Von Hemel had him and the only reason he came to us is Donnie doesn’t go where there’s turf and Clifford (Barry) knew we were at Arlington and Fair Grounds, all grass. He had come off a layoff where he had gotten horrible bone bruising, like so bad, even after three months, we couldn’t get him around the racetrack, he was sore from the bone bruising. We told Clifford, the only shot we’ve got is to give him the right amount of time to get over this, once he got through that, he’s been as solid as they come. We’ve never actually stopped and sent him to the farm, he’s had some breaks, we’ve always kept him in light training, we do some Aquatred at Fair Hill, gallop him in the fields, just kept him always moving and keeping that bone healthy. To this day, he’s been really good and very sound, he’s just one of those iron horses.”

Established: Maiden makes his graded stakes debut in the Ohio Derby Saturday for Twin Creeks Stable and Mt. Brilliant Farm. “He was well thought of early, we sprinted him the first time, he ran well. When we went the mile with him, he surprised me, he ran a 17 Ragozin sprinting and went straight to a 9 in his second start. I thought he would run well at a mile but I didn’t think he would make that big of a jump that quick. When this whole world turned into this crazy thing that’s going on, we just felt like, ‘Hey, why take a horse that just ran a 9 and run him in a maiden race?’ That’s how we landed in Ohio. I’ve run maidens in stakes but never in a graded stake. He lacks the experience as some of the others, it’s stepping out on a limb but it’s worth taking a shot, we can always run him in a maiden race.” 

Clear As Day: Three-year-old daughter of Sky Mesa has won her last two starts at Tampa Bay Downs for Pin Oak. “She’s in the Fasig July sale. She took forever, just had little niggling problems. Ben has had her most of the time at Tampa, he’s done a great job getting her in some consistency. She broke her maiden and came right back to win the a-other-than, she’s got a good pedigree, but Pin Oak already has something from that family so she’s going in the July sale.”

Call On Mischief: Phoenix Thoroughbred’s filly by Into Mischief has notched two wins from eight starts, finished ninth in the Lady Shipman at Belmont Park in her most recent start. “She broke her maiden on the dirt but she improved numbers wise significantly when we got her on the grass. At Churchill, she ran a monster race in an off-the-turf, she ran a 10, that’s what gave us the confidence to try the stake. She was bottled up, rock hard turf course that she didn’t get over it, the rider said she kept switching leads. We’re going to throw that one out and hope to get back to the good race she ran at Churchill.”

Allende: Three-year-old daughter of Candy Ride and Ashado finished second in her career debut at Delaware Park. “She ran big first time out at Delaware. We just got 20 2-year-olds in from Godolphin, it’s just a who’s-who of sires and mares. We think she’s got a good future ahead of her. We’ll probably let her earn her way to New York. The other day, she opened up a couple of lengths and the horse that she went by came back and got her. Based on that, we’ll probably let her have one more easy spot. Jimmy Bell and Godolphin are so easy to work with, they very rarely overrule any of the choices we make, that makes our job so much easier.”

Gaelic Tales: Another promising filly who finished second in her debut at Delaware. “Second by a head in a maiden at Delaware. We liked her as 2-year-old, but couldn’t get her on the grass. We ran her on the dirt, she didn’t handle the dirt at all and came out of the race with not a huge problem, but enough to back off, stop, let her grow up. She’s trained really well since she came back. Another one that looked like we were a winner and didn’t quite get past the winner.” Asked how he handles finishing second, Stidham laughed. “As a matter of fact, Hilary comes down and says how good we ran and I say, ‘It’s just another loser for me.’ That’s obviously why we work, I’m half empty and she’s always half full.”

Majorette: Daughter of Will Take Charge added to the seconds with a debut second at Churchill in May and another one Friday. “Owned by a good guy, Dan Donoghue, he’s usually looking for a jump prospect, she’s not a jump prospect. She was a little late developing but ran a huge race first time out at Churchill, got pinched back to last and made a huge move to be second. We think the mile-and-an-eighth will be right up her alley.”

Point Him Out: Son of Point Of Entry who sold at Fasig-Tipton as a yearling in 2018 won his debut and was second in his second start at Belmont. “Another New York-bred. Hilary had already said that he might make a jumper, so Dan Donoghue bought him privately from Niall Brennan. We got to keep him and think we’ll have some fun with him in New York.”

Trickle In: CJ Thoroughbreds’ filly won her first two starts before finishing fourth in a stakes at Fair Grounds in February. “We gave her a little break after the stake at Fair Grounds, there wasn’t a lot for her so we figured we would freshen her up for the summer and we plan on running her in the Christiana at Delaware. She’s training well.”

Powell: Owned by David Ross’ DARRS, also the owner of Stidham’s barn at Fair Hill, the stakes-winning son of Munnings will travel this year. “Another hard-knocker, he seems to really love the synthetic so we’re always looking at Woodbine and Presque Isle. A lot of our success and getting horses sent to us is because people like somebody who isn’t afraid to venture out and find the right spot for their horse.”

Doc Boy: Owned by Stallionaire Enterprises, 3-year-old colt owns two stakes wins, including the Columbia in March. Finished 11th in the English Channel at Gulfstream in May. “We gave him a little break in October and he ran a huge race in the Columbia. We took him down to Gulfstream, it was like going from black to white on the two different turf courses. He ran horribly at Gulfstream. We’ll probably take him to Colonial.”

Peaceful: Twin Creeks’ filly is entered at Belmont Park Sunday. “Winner at Saratoga last summer, breezing at Fair Hill. She had a little knee surgery, she’s training well.”

Kingpin: Son of Quality Road finished third in an allowance race at Laurel in his most recent start. “We’re actually looking at a 3-year-old stake at Monmouth on the 12th, called the My Frenchman Stakes. Straight 3-year-olds. He’s been solid since we got him on the grass, the turf has moved him way up.”

Slugger: How did he lose? Godolphin’s son of Bernardini lost the bob in his debut at Delaware Park Wednesday. “I’m standing there watching the replay and I said, ‘I think in the last jump, that horse got his head up.’ (Arnaud) Delacour and I talk every morning at Fair Hill and he’s congratulating me, I said, ‘Don’t congratulate me.’ Right then, they put (Delacour’s) number up. He’s a big, strong, big-hip, big-shouldered horse. He had trained well going into it, we liked him, he ran huge and we’re hoping for big things for him.” 

Embolden: Dare To Dream’s colt sports two wins, two seconds and two thirds from six starts. “I’m glad you asked about him, he’s owned by the syndicate from Chicago, if ever there’s an article and I talk about several horses and I don’t mention theirs, I hear about it for an hour. I was going to mention him if you didn’t. We loved the horse at the sale, he had a little bit of vet issues, nothing that bothered us. He’s just been another one of those solid, consistent, never-been-off-the-board horses. We took a shot and ran him on the dirt at Remington, he ran huge, came out of it with a little flake in his knee, we took that out and he’s had a couple of five-eighths. He’s a Virginia-bred so we’ll probably go right into a Virginia-bred stake at Colonial.”

Mystic Guide: Stidham’s octave raises when asked about the 3-year-old son of Ghostzapper and Music Note, owned and bred by Godolphin. “That’s the big hope. He was a late comer, he had some little issues before he got to us. Man, when he came in, he was one of those strong, pretty chestnuts with white legs and a white face. He showed everything, class and talent right off the bat. We loved him going into his first race but it was Louisiana Derby Day, the maiden race was a mile-and-an-eighth so we decided to sprint him. He got shuffled back early, then came running on a speed-favoring track, he got beat a length and a quarter. When we ran him back long, he drew off and won easily. After that we had the Covid quarantine, we had nowhere to go with him, we were thinking about running him in a stake and said, ‘Let’s do the right thing by him.’ We ran him in the one-turn mile-and-a-sixteenth at Belmont, which was a huge speed-favoring track that day. Tap It To Win jumped out on a huge lead and drew off, our horse never had a chance to get to him. He galloped out with him around the turn. Numbers wise, he ran an 8 when he broke his maiden, in the allowance race, he ran another 8. I love that pattern 8-8 going into his next race. We’re looking at three races, the Haskell, the Blue Grass, the Indiana Derby. One of those, depending on who’s going where and what looks like the right spot for us. We love him.”

I Hear You: Fifth in her debut at Churchill, the daughter of Street Sense is entered at Churchill Downs Sunday. “She was bought by Pete Bradley, we were the underbidder for a client of ours. We’ve trained off and on for Pete, he knew we liked her so he sent her to us. A little bit of a late comer, but we like her.”

Barleewon: New York-bred won a maiden race at Belmont Park Friday. “Owned by Barry Golden and a partner. Barry has been in the business forever, he had that horse Golden Gear way back when Hilary worked for Noel Hickey. He’s been a longtime client for us. The horse has steadily progressed, that last race, we needed to see him take a step forward.” 

Zumurudee: Spell that one ten times fast. Imported from England by James Bredin for DARRS, the 6-year-old goes long on the turf. “One of the cool, barn-favorite horses. Just a big, old, cool horse that everybody loves. Another one who has always been ultra-consistent, always getting a piece. Since we started going further, a mile and an eighth to a mile and a half, those are his best races. David Ross wants to run every one of his horses at Colonial, so we’ll be looking to run him at Colonial. We’re going to take 20 stalls at Colonial, the purses are good, great surfaces, we’re hoping to run as many as we can get in.”

Beautiful Farewell: Daughter of Frosted has posted six breezes at Fair Hill, including two quick ones from the gate. “She’s owned by Mike Ryan, she’s named for Gerry Dilger. A sentimental horse. We are entering her for next Thursday at Belmont. She’s talented. I think she’s going to be pretty nice.”

Dreaming of Gerry: Another sentimental horse. Stallionaire purchased son of Liam’s Map from Dilger’s Dromoland Farm. “He’s a little bit away, but he’s shown some talent in the morning. I would say we’ll probably start him in the Mid-Atlantic and hopefully he earns his way up.”

Guillaume: Son of Hard Spun owned by David Ross has put in six breezes at Fair Hill. “He’s been a few halves. He’s showing some talent, he seems like he’s going to be pretty nice. We’ll start him at Colonial.”

Tasting the Stars: A $140,000 yearling purchase from the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale, the Virginia-bred filly won her first three starts before a layoff for Newtown Anner Stud. “She’s just getting ready to come back in, she’s already a stakes winner. She’s been really nice, we’re excited about getting her back in the barn.”

Positive Spirit: A new addition to Stidham’s barn, the Grade 2 stakes winner hasn’t run since clipping heels and falling in the 2019 Kentucky Oaks. “She’s an older mare from Mike Ryan. She won the Demoiselle back in ’18, she was second in the Gazelle last year. She just came to us, we might run her in the Molly Pitcher.”

Love Beach: Owned by Mt. Brilliant and Orrin Ingram, the 3-year-old filly finished sixth in her 3-year-old debut. “She broke her maiden first time out and we ran her right back in the Selima at Laurel and we hook Sharing. She came off a layoff the other day and had a horrible trip, got steadied trying to sneak up the rail. We think she’s got a lot of upside, we’ll probably run her at Keeneland in an a other than.”

Waterside: Godolphin homebred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro posted a sprightly drill from the gate June 25. “She’s a little quirky. There’s some talent there, we haven’t had her that long but we think there’s some upside to her.”

Gershwin: Again the octave goes up when asked about the 2-year-old son of Distorted Humor and Music Note. “He’s a half to Mystic Guide. We’ve only had him a few weeks but what we see, he’s one of those that sticks out. Almost identical to Mystic Guide. An almost bad story that turned out OK. After his first work at Fair Hill, he was taking a drink and his groom, who’s worked for us a long time, an experienced groom, bent down to take off a hind bandage. It kind of startled him, he double barreled him, knocked him from one side of the shedrow into the other side of the shedrow. Luckily, other than stitches in his head, he’s OK. He’s a tough son of a gun…both of them.”

Takingtimeoff: And the hits just keep on coming. Godolphin’s 2-year-old filly by Curlin breezed from gate June 23. “We like her. Again, we haven’t had these horses long enough to know everything about them, but she’s nice.”

Palio: Look out Colonial. Juvenile by Twirling Candy has registered six works at Fair Hill for DARRS. “He looks like he’s going to be quick.”

Tete A Tete: A Mt. Brilliant homebred, she finished sixth in her debut. “She ran one time going five-eighths of a mile and came running at the end, she’s got some upside to her when we stretch her out.”

Arrest Warrant: Another Dare to Dream runner, the 2-year-old filly has worked four times at Fair Hill. “We bought her in March. She’s a definite two-turn, big, long-stride filly. We like her, but she’ll be a little bit later.”

Highly Prized: We have to ask about him. Former stakes performer switched to jumping and then switched countries, winning three of six starts over hurdles for Pridham and Donoghue in England. He hasn’t run since fading in the Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in February. “You better talk to Hilary about him.” Pridham: “There was an entry notification for Southwell this morning. He’s back in action.”