By Jerry Bossert
While Untapable may be considered the best 3-year-old filly in the nation, Stopchargingmaria established herself as a close second after taking the $600,000 Alabama Stakes (gr. I) for her second top-level win in a row at the Saratoga Race Course meet Aug. 16 (VIDEO).
Even-money choice Stopchargingmaria finished three-quarters of a length ahead of 24-1 longshot Joint Return.
It was the second straight grade I win for the filly owned by Mike Repole and trained by Todd Pletcher, and her third straight stakes score. Stopchargingmaria won the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) at Pimlico Race Course May 16 before taking the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) July 20 at Saratoga in a five-length romp.
Tracking pacesetter Size from the start, while racing three-wide under John Velazquez, Stopchargingmaria poked her head in front at the quarter pole. She first had to repel the rail bid from 30-1 outsider Miss Besilu in midstretch before holding off the late run from Joint Return to win for the sixth time from 10 career starts.
"In a perfect world, maybe, we wouldn’t have been quite so wide around the first turn," Pletcher said. "We just wanted to make sure we got her into a comfortable rhythm. We were willing to give up a little bit of ground to do that. It really worked out pretty well."
Stopchargingmaria is by Tale of the Cat out of the Montbrook dam Exotic Bloom, bred by Harvey Clarke and Brookdale Farm. She was sold at the 2013 March Ocala Breeding sale for $220,000. With her Alabama win, Stopchargingmaria has now banked $1,414,000 in her career.
She returned $4, $3.20, and $2.70 to win after covering the 1 1/4-mile distance in 2:05.14 over a fast track. Joint Return returned $12.80 and $7, completing an $82.50 exacta. Miss Besilu was $8.50 to show while part of a whopping $879 trifecta.
Fortune Pearl finished fourth and was followed by Got Lucky, America, Catch My Drift, Unbridled Forever, and Size, who weakened to last in the field of nine sophomore fillies after posting deliberate quarter mile fractions of :24.35, :49.92, and 1:15.18.
"We had to give up some ground all the way around there, and when (Miss Besilu) cut the corner it was like, ‘Uh oh,’ but she had plenty of time to see her and compete with her," said Pletcher, who saddled the Alabama winner for the second straight year following Princess of Sylmar in 2013.
Untapable, who won her first four starts this year including victories in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) before finishing fifth against the boys in the July 27 William Hill Haskell Invitational (gr. I), is scheduled to start next in the Cotillion Stakes (gr. I) at Parx Sept. 27.
"She’s in the mix (for championship honors) now," Pletcher said of Stopchargingmaria. "We’ve got to keep winning. I’m not sure the Cotillion is the race we’ll choose. Maybe we’ll go to the Beldam (gr. I on Sept. 27 at Belmont Park). We’ll just have to see how she comes out of this. It probably will be one of those.”
For owner Mike Repole, the win completed a remarkable dream for the kid from Queens.
"As a kid in Queens I could never afford to get up here (to Saratoga)," said the multimillionaire. "I never had a car that could go three hours. I’ve always watched the big races.
"For someone that’s only been in the game for about 10 years and only really five years with some quality horses, you want to win the Jim Dandy (gr. II). You want to win the Travers (gr. I). You want to win the Coaching Club (American Oaks). You want to win the Alabama. How lucky and blessed am I to say, 'Wow. Not only have I been in these races but I’ve won all four?' It might be a good day to retire."