Stopshoppingmaria, making just her third start since finishing second in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT), won the allowance feature on the grass at Gulfstream Park Dec. 14 (VIDEO).
Sent off the 8-to-5 favorite in the $43,500 optional claiming test at five furlongs, Repole Stable's 3-year-old daughter of More Than Ready burst through a seam in upper stretch to prevail by 1 1/4 lengths under jockey John Velazquez. Stopshoppingmaria, making her first appearance since a fifth-place effort in a similar spot as on odds-on choice at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 4, has been working for her return at Palm Meadows Training Center.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Stopshoppingmaria posted her second lifetime win from seven starts. She also has three seconds and a third and earnings of $315,560.
By far the most accomplished runner in the field of 12 fillies and mares, Stopshoppingmaria was timed in 56.56 seconds over the "firm" Gulfstream course and paid $5.20 for $2 to win. Pacesetter Heaven Knows What finished second, a nose in front of 9-year-old veteran Lady Rizzi, who was flying late for third.
Stopshoppingmaria stalked the leaders in fourth, advancing on the turn, then responded gamely at mid-stretch under a drive from Velazquez.
"I didn't want her to get caught in a speed duel early," the jockey said. "I just let her sit right behind the speed until the three-sixteenths pole, and she did what she had to do from there when it counted. I told Anthony (Sciametta, assistant to Pletcher) that I think she's come back better than ever."
Bred in Kentucky by Mueller Farms, Stopshoppingmaria is out of the Spend a Buck mare Skybox.