By Ryan Martin

Like many horsemen in the game, racing was a major part of trainer Michael Stidham’s life since he was a boy. His father George Stidham was a journeyman rider, became an agent for Hall of Fame rider Bill Hartack upon his retirement, and would eventually train horses himself. When a young Stidham finally did go out on his own, it didn’t take long for him to learn what success tasted like. In 1980 he sent out his first winner (Kim’s Pet) as well as his first stakes winner (Me Good Man, Independence Stakes at Louisiana Downs). Fast forward 40 years later and Stidham is still no stranger to success. He has campaigned a total of 22 graded stakes winners.

Although he was born in New Jersey and got his training career started in Florida, Stidham considers New Orleans his hometown, and in 2016, earned his first training title at Fair Grounds. With a total of 50 horses on the Fair Grounds backstretch, Stidham is anything but short of well-bred talent. He’s enjoyed a good meet so far with ten wins and currently sits at fourth place in the trainer’s standings. Here are a handful of horses that can add to his already successful meet:

Elsa: Like every Thoroughbred that sports the Godolphin blue, the now 3-year-old daughter of Animal Kingdom boasts a highly prestigious pedigree. She is out of Abtasaamah, whose two-time graded stakes winning dam Fleet Lady produced Eclipse Award winner Midshipman as well as Fast Cookie – the dam of three-time Grade I winner Frosted. Elsa scored an 11-1 upset in the Grade III Jimmy Durante Stakes at Del Mar back in November in her most recent effort and there is a possibility that her sophomore debut will take place in the $60,000 Chantel Lanerie
Memorial Overnight Stakes in February.

“She looked impressive breaking her maiden at Laurel. She was third in a sprint stake at Saratoga. We took her out to Del Mar and ran her in the Jimmy Durante, she won that impressively. There’s an overnight stake in the next book and if not that we’ll run her in a stake at Gulfstream. She’s a possible for that, but we have high hopes for her going forward.”

Superioritycomplex (Ire): An overseas acquisition for just north of a half-million by Mt. Brilliant Farm from the Tattersalls December Mares Sale in 2017, this 5-year-old daughter of Hard Spun is another with quite the top-notch pedigree. Her maternal grand dam was 1987 Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks winner Hellenic (Ire) who produced Group 1 winners Greek Dance (Ire) and Islington (Ire). Superioritycomplex has won twice in five starts for Stidham. She emerged from a 368-day layoff in winning fashion over the turf at Arlington on August 18. Fourth in the Blushing K.D. in her stakes debut last out, she’ll give stakes company another crack in the $75,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes on January 19.

“We’ll run her in the Marie Krantz. She’s an improving type that came over from Europe and she’s won the ‘a-other-than’ at Arlington and the ‘two-other-than’ here. We’re hoping to get her some black type. She’s one that’s on the come.”

Moon Dash: An injury forced the 4-year-old daughter on the shelf following the 2017 Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf where she was tenth, but she’s been back on the work tab since late September. With plenty of works recorded since her hiatus, one can expect her to race sooner rather than later. Out of the stakes winning More Than Ready broodmare In the Slips, she was a $650,000 purchase from the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Two-Year-Olds In Training Sale in April 2017.

“She’s a filly that we have back in training. She won her first start as a two-year-old and she’s now four, but she came back in the Surfer Girl at Santa Anita and got beat a nose that day. We kept her out there and ran her in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and she didn’t run well that day. We gave her some time off with an injury, she’s come back from that, and she’s basically ready to run now. We feel real good about her. We think she’s got a bright future.”

Swordsman: Stretching out in distance proved to be no issue for this 3-year-old son of First Samurai when he wired the field over a sloppy main track last month. One can expect this $150,000 purchase from the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2017 to see turf at some point in the near future. He comes from the same family as graded stakes winners Dixie City and Unified.

“He won first time going two turns last time pretty nice in an off the turf race in the slop. It was the third start of his life and we’re planning on getting him on grass as soon as possible. That was an off the turf race but he won anyway. We think he’s got a pretty decent future.”

Synchrony: The most accomplished horse in the Stidham barn has sights set on repeat victories in the Grade III, $150,000 Fair Grounds Handicap and the Grade II, $300,000 Muniz Memorial Stakes. The 6-year-old son of Tapit enjoyed a prosperous campaign last year which included that pair of graded stakes wins at Fair Grounds as well as wins at Monmouth Park in the Oceanport Stakes and Red Bank Stakes (both Grade III). In addition he was third in the Grade I Old Forester Turf Classic behind Yoshida (Jpn). A Pin Oak Stud homebred, he is out of the
multiple stakes winner Brownie Points who scored stakes wins on dirt and turf.

“He’s had the whole month of light training, jogging, galloping, and he’s very healthy, happy, and sound off of his campaign from last year. We’re gearing him up for the Fair Grounds Handicap and the Muniz. He ran out there in California and got in tons of trouble. He came flying and I think he was the best horse in the race. When he comes back, he should be ready to go for those two big races.”

Tackett: This David Ross homebred successfully stretched out to two turns two starts back in November and defeated winners on December 22. Stidham will give the West Virginia-bred 3-year-old son of Limehouse a shot to earn Derby qualifying points in the Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes on January 19. He is out of the Macho Uno broodmare Unostrike who is a half-sister to two-time graded stakes winner Llanarmon.

“He’s probably our top three year old. He broke his maiden impressively in his first time going two turns and came back and beat winners by a neck here the other day. We’re planning on running him, if all is well, the Lecomte. He’s a big horse with a long stride and he’s a West Virginia bred which is kind of a rare situation but he doesn’t know where he’s bred. He’s doing well. He’s got a good attitude, a big stride and tactical speed going long so were real excited about him.”

Higher Power: This well-bred 4-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro is a half-brother to four-time graded stakes winning millionaire Alternation and made his first start for Stidham on December 15 where he was third in a second-level allowance event on the main track. He previously raced for Donnie Von Hemel for whom he recorded two victories at Oaklawn Park last year. Stidham will consider stakes company for him down the road, but he has to prove he’s worthy of testing such waters first.

“I got him in from Pin Oak. He was in the two other than and kind of got hung out a little bit. Was a closing third and he hadn’t run since April so I think he’s another one that second off the layoff should be real tough. If he runs well there then we can consider some stakes competition for him.”

Supreme Aura: Stallionaire Enterprises’ 4-year-old son of Candy Ride (Arg.) looked mighty impressive in his career debut back in August 2017, where he drew off to win by 4¾ lengths at Delaware Park. He defeated winners at Fair Grounds last January following that win and later in the summer won the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park. Supreme Aura has not raced since the Long Branch Stakes on July 7 where he was fourth.

“He won the Pegasus at Monmouth in the summer. We gave him some time off. He just came back in but he’ll be ready before the meet is over. We think he’s got some good races in him.”

Sweet Diane: This stakes-placed 3-year-old daughter of Will Take Charge broke her maiden at Penn National at second asking and went on to finish second against stakes company at Gulfstream Park in December. She is out of the Tiznow broodmare Inside Passage who is a half to Glinda the Good – the dam of Eclipse Award winner and Kentucky Derby runner up Good Magic. She will point towards the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes on January 19.

“She was the favorite in the Hut Hut Stakes at Gulfstream, which my other horse Classic Fit won. Sweet Diane was the favorite and was second in the race. We’re bringing her over for the Silverbulletday. She’ll come from Tampa and we plan on going there but we think she’s pretty nice.”