01/06/2015 1:31PM

2014 Eclipse Awards: Stopchargingmaria

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Barbara D. Livingston

“It’s not how you start but how you finish” is a phrase that applied to Stopchargingmaria, who earned a spot among the Eclipse Award finalists in the 3-year-old filly division with a strong second half in 2014.

After closing out her juvenile campaign with wins in the Tempted and Demoiselle stakes at Aqueduct, expectations were high when Stopchargingmaria returned at Gulfstream Park for her 2014 debut in the Davona Dale Stakes. But a wide trip from the far-outside post resulted in a fifth-place finish.

After she ran fourth in the Fantasy Stakes six weeks later at Oaklawn Park, trainer Todd Pletcher decided to send Stopchargingmaria back to Saratoga, where she had won her career debut on opening day in 2013 and finished second in the Grade 1 Spinaway for owner Mike Repole.
As with many notable Thoroughbreds over the past 150 years or so, the change of scenery proved to be just what the doctor ordered for Stopchargingmaria, and she rebounded with a hard-fought victory in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico.

“For some reason, [going back to Saratoga] seemed to really agree with her, whether it was the cooler weather or her just coming into herself, or a combination of those things,” said Pletcher. “You could see she just seemed to be coming into her own. The Black-Eyed Susan was a terrific performance. It was good to see her run as well as she’s capable of.”

Stopchargingmaria continued to flourish at the Spa and reaffirmed her affinity for the historic track on the first Saturday of the meet by crushing her rivals in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, for which she earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 94. Despite racing wide throughout the race, she was drawing away at the end to win by five lengths and surpassed $1 million in earnings as Pletcher’s sixth CCA Oaks winner.

“I told Mike that this filly has never trained better ... she seems to really like Saratoga,” said Pletcher. “The huge thing was to win a Grade 1. A filly with her résumé, to get that Grade 1 was huge.”

On the strength of that effort, Stopchargingmaria was dispatched as the even-money favorite in the Alabama Stakes. After racing wide once again, she withstood multiple challenges to win the 134th running of the prestigious race at the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles beneath John Velazquez.

“Our biggest concern in the Alabama was running her back in four weeks off really a lifetime-best effort in the Coaching Club,” said Pletcher. “We were happy she was able to do that, and with it being her first time at a mile and a quarter, she handled that well, too. We had to give up some ground all the way around there, and when [Miss Besilu] cut the corner, it was like, ‘Uh oh,’ but she had plenty of time to see her and compete with her.”

Stopchargingmaria’s wins in the CCA Oaks and Alabama completed a sweep of Saratoga’s four marquee stakes for 3-year-olds for Repole, whose Stay Thirsty won the Jim Dandy and Travers in 2011.

“As a kid in Queens, I could never afford to get to Saratoga. I never even had a car that would go three hours,” Repole recalled. “How lucky and blessed I am to say, ‘Wow, not only have I been in these races, but I’ve won all four.’ ”

Stopchargingmaria concluded the year against older fillies and mares, finishing a clear second in the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational.2014 Ecl