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HRN Original Blog:
Toasting with Andrew Champagne

Mike Repole and his Filly Kept Charging to Victory

 
 
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 Untapable.

“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.

 

 

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Meet Andrew Champagne

 

A native of upstate New York and a graduate of Ithaca College, Andrew Champagne fell in love with horse racing at a very early age on summer trips to Saratoga. His turf writing credits include time spent as a sportswriter, weekly columnist, and handicapper at The Saratogian, a summer working for The Saratoga Special, and "field research" at OTB facilities in Saratoga Springs and his hometown of Kingston. He also spent two years in the athletic communications office at Siena College, and interned with NBC Olympics at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.


Andrew moved to Pasadena, Calif., in October of 2013, and now serves as an Associate Producer in HRTV's Digital Media department and Horse Racing Nation's Southern California writer. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewChampagne, and email him at andrewdchampagne@gmail.com.