Stopchargingmaria wins Black-Eyed Susan Stakes

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Todd Pletcher arrived at his Pimlico paddock this morning to find his filly, Stopchargingmaria, full of energy. Coming off disappointing performances in her two races this year, Pletcher didn't know what his amped-up horse would deliver.

It went about as well as it could for Pletcher and his 3-year-old filly, who won the $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes by a neck over Vero Amore in 1 minute, 51.79 seconds.


"It was a terrific performance," Pletcher said. "I'm mainly just excited that the filly's got herself back in top form. It's good to see her run as well as she's capable of."

Stopchargingmaria ran herself out of contention for a place in the Kentucky Oaks — the 3-year-old filly stakes on Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs — with a poor start to her 3-year-old season.


Coming off two wins in November at Aqueduct Racetrack, the filly by Tale of the Cat and Exotic Bloom placed fourth in the Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 22 and fifth in the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park on April 5.

So while her peers were preparing for the Oaks, Pletcher sent her to train in Saratoga, N.Y.

"For some reason, that seemed to really agree with her, whether it was the cooler weather or her just coming into herself or a combination of those things," he said. "You could see she … just seemed to be coming into her own."

Image of Anna pulled away out of the gate, leading the first quarter-mile in 23.74 seconds. Stopchargingmaria — who Pletcher and jockey Javier Castellano admit has trouble in traffic — got off to a slow start, so Castellano called an audible.

The jockey brought Stopchargingmaria to the outside down the backstretch to give the filly time and space to make her final move. She made her charge on the outside around the final turn, pulling into second entering the stretch and taking the lead around 200 yards from the finish line.

"Plan A was to be a little more forward than we were, and when we got shuffled back, I was a little concerned, but pleased once he was able to tip her to the outside and get her in the clear," Pletcher said. "The one thing Javier and I have always talked about is, we come into a race sort of with an idea of what might happen, a Plan A, but I always want him and all of my riders to know that I have confidence in them to call an audible when needed."

Castellano said he's ridden Stopchargingmaria in slop before, and though the Pimlico track was rated good after the overnight downpours, he said she handled the mud well.

"We figured there'd be a lot of speed, and I just wanted to put her in a good position," Castellano said. "At the top of the stretch, I was pretty confident."


Vero Amore helped keep the pace for the entire 11/8-mile stakes race, never fell farther than a length behind early leader Image of Anna, and took the lead into the stretch but finished a neck behind the winner.

"I can't believe she is still not a stakes winner," said Robert Reid Jr., Vero Amore's trainer. "What she lacks in size and maybe pedigree, she makes up in trying. I saw her give them the slip a little at the top of the stretch. I've got to give the winner a lot of credit. She ran really game. They were both really trying all the way to the wire."

Graham Motion's Fortune Pearl, who like Vero Amore helped keep the pace the whole race, finished third.

"I thought I had it coming off the turn and we'd kick on," Motion said. "I though we were going to keep on going, then the horse came alongside of me and we just got beat. She gave me everything she could."

Joint Return, ridden by Kendrick Carmouche, was last going into the first turn, but rallied to finish fourth. Jockey John Velazquez, who won the Xpressbet Hall of Fame Jockey Challenge earlier in the day, rode America, who also fell back early and finished fifth.

Rosie Napravnik rode Arethusa to sixth, followed by La Mejor Fiesta, Shanon Nicole, Sloane Square, and Euphrosyne in the top 10. Image of Anna, who burst out of the gate and led up until just after the three-quarter mile mark, finished 11th.