Updated on 05/16/2014 5:55PM

Stopchargingmaria wins Black-Eyed Susan Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Stopchargingmaria (left) beats Vero Amore in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes on Friday.

BALTIMORE – Future Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Kentucky Oaks three times, but he went one-up with his Black-Eyed Susan Stakes tally Friday when Stopchargingmaria emerged best in a fierce drive to capture the Grade 2 filly classic at Pimlico.

Under strong handling from Javier Castellano, Stopchargingmaria prevailed by a neck over longshot Vero Amore to give Pletcher his fourth winner in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan, the Pimlico counterpart to the Oaks.

“It was a terrific performance,” said Pletcher.

Over a drying-out track still rated “good” from morning rain, Stopchargingmaria raced in mid-pack behind an early pace set by Image of Anna before looping into the fray on the far turn. Passing the eighth pole, as Vero Amore dug in, Stopchargingmaria proved more persistent in what had become a two-filly race, and she edged past in the final 100 yards. She returned $9.60 to win as second choice after finishing the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:51.79.

“It set up perfectly for us, and I had a beautiful trip,” said Castellano. “At the top of the stretch, I was pretty confident.”

Fortune Pearl was along late to be third, 2 3/4 lengths behind Vero Amore and another 1 3/4 lengths before Joint Return in fourth. Sloane Square, a second Pletcher entry and the tepid 3-1 favorite in a field of 11, was never a serious threat when finishing ninth.

Stopchargingmaria, owned by the Repole Stable of Mike Repole, earned $300,000 from the total purse of $500,000 to lift her career earnings to $874,000. A Kentucky-bred by Tale of the Cat, she now has won four of eight starts, with prior stakes victories having come last fall in the Grade 3 Tempted Stakes and Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes at Repole’s home track, Aqueduct.

In her first two starts this year, Stopcharginmaria had been a disappointment when finishing out of the money in the Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream and the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn.

“To be honest, I’m not really sure why her first two races this year didn’t go as well as last year,” said Pletcher. “After the Fantasy, we took her up to Saratoga, and the cool weather seemed to invigorate her. Today, she acted like she was back to her old self.”

Pletcher previously won the Black Eyed Susan with Spun Sugar (2005), Panty Raid (2007), and In Lingerie (2012).

On a cloudy but pleasant afternoon and with hours of steady rain having come and gone, Image of Anna set off from her far outside post through fractions of 23.74 seconds and 48.90, while Vero Amore, ridden by Frank Pennington, gave closest chase. Midway through the far turn, Vero Amore took over, but then came the relentless run of Stopchargingmaria.

“I thought I had it coming off the turn, and we’d kick on,” said Pennington. “She gave me everything she could. I’m very proud of her.”

The $2 exacta (4-10) paid $119.80, the $1 trifecta (4-10-9) returned $435.70, and the 10-cent superfecta (4-10-9-1) was worth $458.24.