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Saratoga and Del Mar 2017

Stopchargingmaria Tops Intriguing Alabama

stopchargingmaria cca oaks 615 X 400
Photo: NYRA / Adam Mooshian
Stopchargingmaria will attempt to sweep Saratoga Race Course's Grade 1 route races for 3-year-old fillies when she heads a group of nine runners entered in the 134th running of the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama on Saturday.


Trained by Todd Pletcher for Mike Repole, Stopchargingmaria carries a two-race winning streak into the 1 ¼-mile Alabama. After making up a seven-length deficit to win the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan in May at Pimlico, Stopchargingmaria pressed the pace and drew off in the stretch to take the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks by five lengths on July 20 at Saratoga. Both the Black-Eyed Susan and Coaching Club American Oaks were contested at 1 1/8 miles.


Stopchargingmaria will attempt to follow in the footsteps of Questing (2012) and Princess of Sylmar (2013) and become the third straight filly to win both the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama. Four of the past six Alabama winners (Proud Spell, 2008; Blind Luck, 2010; Royal Delta, 2011; Questing, 2012) were later named Champion Three-Year-Old Filly.


At 2, Stopchargingmaria debuted a 5 ½-length winner and was second to Sweet Reason in the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga. Following a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont, she won the Grade 3 Tempted and Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct to conclude her juvenile campaign.


The daughter of King's Bishop winner Tale of the Cat was fifth in the Grade 2 Davona Dale in February at Gulfstream Park and fourth in the Grade 3 Fantasy in April at Oaklawn Park before she regained winning form in the Black-Eyed Susan.


"I think the [Coaching Club American Oaks] was her best performance to date," said Pletcher. "She seemed be training well leading into that, and we've seen more of the same. We're pleased with the way she ran and with the way she has come out of it. Everything has gone according to schedule."


Like her eight opponents, Stopchargingmaria will be trying 1 ¼ miles for the first time on Saturday.


"She has two mile-and-an-eighth races under her belt [in her two most recent starts], and has three wins at a mile and an eighth [in her career], so you just hope she can get a mile and a quarter," said Pletcher. "With the indications we've been seeing, we're optimistic she can."


Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Stopchargingmaria from post position 8.


Pletcher also will be represented by Got Lucky, who was second to Stopchargingmaria in the Demoiselle as a maiden. In her three other graded stakes attempts, Got Lucky was a distant second in both the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra in February at the Fair Grounds and Grade 2 Gazelle in April at Aqueduct before reporting home seventh in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks in May at Churchill Downs. Most recently, she won an entry-level allowance by a neck on July 23 at the Spa.


"We've been pointing for this since her allowance win," said Pletcher. "She's by A.P. Indy, and we've always felt that more distance would be good for her. We hope that proves to be true."


Got Lucky, who drew post 5, will be ridden by Jose Ortiz for the first time.


Four of Stopchargingmaria's previous opponents - Unbridled Forever, Fortune Pearl, Miss Besilu, and America - will attempt to turn the tables in the Alabama.


Unbridled Forever, a Charles Fipke homebred, won the Silverbulletday in January at the Fair Grounds and subsequently was third in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks in March, Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, and Grade 1 TVG Acorn in June at Belmont before her runner-up performance in the Coaching Club American Oaks.


"She came out of the race great and I am pleased with her," trainer Dallas Stewart said of Unbridled Forever. "She has gained weight and is doing really well. The added distance should help her."


Rosie Napravnik takes over aboard Unbridled Forever, who drew post 1.


Zanim Meahjohn's Fortune Pearl raced evenly when third in the Black-Eyed Susan before returning to take the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks by two lengths on July 5 at Delaware Park.


"The idea was that we'd bring her [to Saratoga] at the beginning of the meet so she could work up here," trainer H. Graham Motion said of Fortune Pearl. "This has been the race we have been pointing for. We'll see if she can step up, but I do think she'll be able to handle the distance. She's by Mineshaft and seems like a filly who will handle a mile and a quarter, which, hopefully, some of the other fillies may not."


Trevor McCarthy will make the trek north from Delaware Park to ride Fortune Pearl. The duo will leave from post 6.


Seeking their first stakes wins are Miss Besilu and America, who both hail from the barn of Hall of Famer Bill Mott. They were third and fourth, respectively, in the Coaching Club American Oaks. Mott also will send out Size, who successfully stretched out in distance when she won the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks by 1 ¼ lengths on June 28 at Prairie Meadows.


The field also includes Joint Return, a three-time stakes winner who was second in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks; and Catch My Drift, a 4 ¼-length winner of an entry-level optional claimer on July 19 at Monmouth Park.



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