Stidham Has High Hopes for Promising Sophomores

Central Avenue | Coady

Trainer Mike Stidham, who recorded the highest earnings mark of his 34-year career in 2023, got the new year off to a quick start when Godolphin's Heckled (Hard Spun) broke her maiden in the eighth race at Fair Grounds Monday. The  conditioner has a pair of promising newly turned 3-year-olds who could help keep the momentum going in 2024.

Godolphin homebred Central Avenue (Street Sense), a first-out winner at Colonial Downs last August, was second in the Oct. 7 GI Frizette S. and, most recently, third in the Nov. 25 GII Golden Rod S. The dark bay filly worked four furlongs in :47.80 (2/82) at Fair Grounds Sunday.

“She's been working well at Fair Grounds,” Stidham said of the filly. “We're looking at her for the preps that lead to the [GII] Fair Grounds Oaks, so we'll see.”

Stidham also has high hopes for Pin Oak Stud's Phantom Speed (Arrogate), a $700,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase. The gray colt just missed when second in his six-furlong unveiling at Fair Grounds Nov. 24. He was third behind the Brad Cox-trained Ethan Energy (Uncle Mo) when stretched to 1 1/16 miles Dec. 23.

“I expected a little bit better, but the Cox horse looks like something special,” Stidham said of that second effort. “Phantom Speed is a big, heavy colt. Certainly he's going to benefit from the race and improve physically and mentally from that run. That came up a very solid maiden race. Anytime you've got a well-bred $700,000 yearling that comes out and runs a big race like he did the first time out, you begin thinking along the lines [of Derbys], but we're a long way out from thinking that high.”

Stidham's New Orleans-based string also includes last year's GIII Monmouth Cup winner Catnip (Kitten's Joy) and Saturday's Pago Hop S. winner Tufani (Distorted Humor).

“He's really doing well,” Stidham said of Catnip. “Training very well. We're happy with him. We're waiting to see if we get an invitation to the [Jan. 27 GI] Pegasus Turf. If that happens, we'll probably go there. If it doesn't happen then we'll definitely be looking at the [Jan. 20] Colonel Bradley.”

Of the now 4-year-old Tufani, who was winning her first stakes race, Stidham said, “Tufani has always shown us a lot of talent since we first got her. She's developed. She's learned to relax. I think the arrow is pointing up for her.”

The Stidham barn reached $5,098,073 in earnings in 2023, led by GI Breeders' Cup Classic third-place finisher Proxy (Tapit).

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