What a difference a month makes.
Thirty days ago, Stopchargingmaria was just another very nice
3-year-old filly. She was a multiple graded stakes-winner, sure, but despite
her win in the Grade 2 Black Eyed Susan in May, the Todd Pletcher trainee
wasn’t viewed in the same way as Untapable, who was seen by some as the second
coming of fellow Steven Asmussen charge Rachel Alexandra.
The race for the division’s Eclipse Award is no longer a
rout, though, as Stopchargingmaria won her second Grade 1 race in four weeks
with a score in Saturday’s $750,000 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga.
Sitting just off a moderate pace, the daughter of Tale of
the Cat launched her bid as the field turned for home. The heavy favorite and
jockey John Velazquez first put away Miss Besilu at the top of the lane before
hanging on to edge late-running Joint Return by three-quarters of a length.
The time of 2:05.14 for the 10-furlong distance didn’t break any records, but owner Mike
Repole said the effort could serve as a springboard to a showdown with
“She’s just a special filly, getting better and better,” he remarked, amidst a packed crowd of friends and relatives in the winner’s circle. “We’re
going to the Cotillion.”
Pletcher, though, was much more reserved, citing the Beldame
at Belmont Park as another option. He did concede that the filly has come a
long way since a pair of disappointing performances early in her 2014 campaign.
“We were a little frustrated this winter that she didn’t
seem to run to herself,” he said. “The Fantasy was a little bit of a step in
the right direction, but still not what we were hoping for from her. For
whatever reason, sending her to Saratoga towards the end of April, she just
seemed to thrive here.”
The win was Pletcher’s second straight in the Alabama,
coming a year after Princess of Sylmar gave the trainer his first-ever win in
one of Saratoga’s most storied races. It was the third consecutive victory for
Stopchargingmaria, and the sixth in 10 career starts.
Joint Return came from well out of it to be second, while
Miss Besilu held third after spurting through an opening at the top of the
lane. Fortune Pearl, Got Lucky, America, Catch My Drift, Unbridled Forever, and
early pacesetter Size completed the order of finish.