Repole Stable's Stopchargingmaria took over rounding the far turn and drew off to an impressive five-length victory over Unbridled Forever in the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) (VIDEO) at Saratoga Race Course July 20.
The victory by the daughter of Tale of the Cat , the 6-5 CCA Oaks favorite, was her first since taking the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) at Pimlico Race Course May 16 and her fifth win in nine starts. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Stopchargingmaria stopped the timer in 1:49.80 under jockey Javier Castellano as she improved her bankroll to $1,054,000.
Unbridled Forever, who made a strong move along with the winner, finished second, with Miss Besilu four lengths farther back in third in the six-horse field. Stopchargingmaria paid $4.40, $2.60, and $2.10. Unbridled Forever was worth $2.90 and $2.20, with Miss Besilu paying $2.50 for third. America was fourth, followed by Taketheodds and Courageous Julie.
The start of the CCA Oaks was delayed after Courageous Julie reared en route to the track and threw one of her hind shoes. The 3-year-old daughter of Pioneerof the Nile was returned to the paddock for a fix, but the farrier was unable to place a new plate on her and she was returned to the track. Couragous Julie was permitted to run, but for purse money only since she did not have any hind shoes in the race.
Once they broke from the gate, Besilu Stable's Miss Besilu took the lead and was quickly joined by Robert Manfuos homebred Taketheodds, getting the first quarter in :24. Taketheodds was in front by a head after a half was completed in :48 flat, with Miss Besilu still close behind, before Stopchargingmaria and Unbridled Forever moved in tandem.
Into the stretch, Stopchargingmaria held a 2 1/2-length advantage and continued to draw off for the final margin in spite of drifting out in the final furlong.
"It kind of unfolded the way we wanted it to on the first turn," Pletcher said. "We were able to get the position we wanted. She had a good trip from there, and it worked out well."
"I told (owner) Mike (Repole) that this filly has never trained better than she has here in the last month. She seems to really like Saratoga. She has been training much more powerfully than she did this winter, so we expected a big effort from her. The huge thing was to win a grade I. A filly of her résumé to get that grade I was huge. I thought she ran well enough today to certainly earn a spot in the Alabama (gr. I)."
The $600,000 Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/4 miles is Aug. 16).
"I had a beautiful dream trip," Castellano said. "My concerns were the small field and the one hole, which is sometimes difficult to get out. I'm glad it worked out perfect. I saved the ground on the first turn. After that I secured my spot. I like the way she did it today. Turning for home, I was thinking the race was over. At the top of the stretch, she took off. Now, the way she has matured, she was phenomenal today."
"I bought her at the Ocala March sale and Todd liked her right away, as well as Ed Rosen, my pedigree guy, and Jim Martin, my racing manager," said winning owner Mike Repole. "You know, I have the easy part. All I've got to do is write the checks. She worked really fast and we had some luck with Tale of the Cat with Overdriven winning the Sanford (gr. II) and (Stopchargingmaria) turned out to be a nice 2-year-old.
"At first, we didn't think her 3-year-old season was coming out the way we thought it would be," Repole continued. "She had two average starts, and then she ran great in the Black-Eyed Susan. We brought her up here after Florida and since she's been here, she's been training like a different horse."
Repole jokingly said maybe Stopchargingmaria's early campaign was due to her being in Florida with Pletcher.
"If she would've come back here and stayed the same as at Gulfstream, I'd say maybe she just didn't mature as a 3-year-old. But it had to be that she just didn't like Florida, or maybe she just didn't like Todd, I'm not sure."
Dallas Stewart, trainer of Unbridled Forever, who was ridden by Joel Rosario, said his filly was outrun.
"She hooked another real nice filly. He (Rosario) was just real patient. She wasn't far back. She was only five (lengths) off the lead going on the backside. She came home good. We just got outrun. I can't make any excuses. Great filly. She's getting better and has matured nicely, so we'll see. We've got the Alabama here later on, and we'll see."
"She kept on going," Rosario said of Unbridled Forever. "She had one stride, one pace, but probably the winner was much the best today. I kind of followed her. When I broke out of the gate I just wanted to lay close to her or maybe be in front but I didn't have a lot of speed. She came with a late run but she was just second best. She ran a nice race. The filly that won the race right now is dominating the competition."
In addition to the CCA Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan, as a 2-year-old of 2013 Stopchargingmaria won the Demoiselle Stakes (gr. II) and Tempted Stakes (gr. III), finished second in the Spinaway, and was third in the Frizette, both grade I.
Bred in Kentucky by Harvey Clarke and the Seitz family's Brookdale Farm, the CCA Oaks winner is the first foal out of the stakes-winning Montbrook mare Exotic Bloom. She was purchased by Repole for $220,000 from the Woodford Thoroughbreds consignment to the 2013 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s March sale of 2-year-olds in training. Woodford had purchased the filly for $47,000 from the Brookdale consignment to the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale.