Mike Stidham’s last two runners for Phoenix Thoroughbreds have been winners thanks victory for Branco Maria at Tampa Bay Downs on Friday, December 19.
Jockey Hector Diaz Junior has also been central to the double having first ridden Contraflow to a stunning success 48 hours earlier before then partnering the son of Candy Ride to a battling victory in an AOC over 7f. The Dubai-based owners are already guaranteed their best year in terms of the number of winners and the ‘Stidham double’ edges the team ever closed to 100 wins in 2020.
In contrast to Phoenix’s earlier winner, Branco Maria had to be produced from off the pace to get up and score a second career success. Breaking in midfield, the gelding settled into a nice rhythm behind a steady enough pace in the early stages. He moved into striking distance as the field entered the turn and was soon encouraged to shadow the pacesetters. The whole field swung wide off the final bend and after a few strides, the eventual winner started to get moving. Showing good determination in the finish he pulled himself to the front and hit the wire just shy of three-lengths in front.