10/30/2015 6:04PM

Stopchargingmaria wins stretch duel in Distaff

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Barbara D. Livingston
Stopchargingmaria (right) outfinishes Stellar Wind to take the Breeders' Cup Distaff by a neck Friday at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Stopchargingmaria won a stretch duel with Stellar Wind before surviving a stewards’ inquiry Friday in a dramatic 32nd running of the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff before a crowd of 44,947 at Keeneland.

With Javier Castellano riding for trainer Todd Pletcher, Stopchargingmaria had a good trip from off the pace in the 1 1/8-mile Distaff, collaring the tiring leaders with a steady outside run as the field neared the quarter pole.

Simultaneously, Stellar Wind, ridden by Victor Espinoza, also was moving boldly while one path farther outside – and after the field of 14 fillies and mares straightened away, the race was down to those two.

Down the stretch, the pair raced in very close quarters while well out onto the track and widening on the others. Stopchargingmaria drifted slightly approaching the eighth pole, brushing with Stellar Wind, but Castellano was determined to keep his mount straight.

Under the wire, Stopchargingmaria was a neck in front, while Stellar Wind had another 3 1/2 lengths on the third-place finisher, Curalina, also trained by Pletcher.

After an inquiry and an objection by Espinoza, the Keeneland stewards took about 10 minutes before ruling there would be no change in the original order.

Stopchargingmaria returned $16.20 as the fourth choice in a field of 14 fillies and mares after finishing in 1:48.98 over a fast track.

“My filly shied a little bit, but then the other filly was lugging in a little bit, too, on top of my horse,” said Castellano. “I was doing my best to keep my filly straight.”

“Turning for home, I was right next to Javier,” said Espinoza. “I didn’t want to get bumped. His horse went about six wide, and I had to go with him. I was very close, but I didn’t want to bump her. My filly really ran great. She showed a lot of fight.”

Owned by the Town and Country Farms of Louise “Kiki” Courtelis, Stopchargingmaria is a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old filly by Tale of the Cat. She was privately purchased after failing to meet her reserve following a high bid of $3.15 million last November at Fasig-Tipton.

Stopchargingmaria was the first BC starter for Courtelis, who said she is inclined to have her race next year as a 5-year-old, assuming the filly exits the race in good health.

“This was incredible,” she said, “and having all my friends and family here made it even better.”

Stopchargingmaria now has won nine of 16 career starts. She earned $1.1 million, raising her total to $2.924,000. Before Friday, her top prior wins had come in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and Grade 1 Alabama at 3. She was coming off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign on the Aug. 29 Travers Stakes undercard at Saratoga.

The victory was the second in the Distaff for Pletcher, following Ashado in 2004, and the first for Castellano.

“Probably the key to winning here was not having a race for her after the Personal Ensign,” said Pletcher, alluding to a gap of nearly nine weeks between races. “We’ve had the benefit of knowing this filly for nearly three years now, and she’s run some of her best races fresh.”

 

After the top three, the order was Sheer Drama, Frivolous, Yahilwa, Warren’s Veneda, I’m a Chatterbox, Calamity Kate, Got Lucky, Wedding Toast, Peace and War, My Sweet Addiction, and Salama.

Untapable, the 2014 Distaff winner, was scratched earlier in the week with a minor ailment.

Wedding Toast, the 5-2 favorite off major victories in New York, was the most notable disappointment when fading to 11th. She broke with the leading pack but never appeared to level off when also having some traffic trouble through the opening half-mile.

Besides Stopchargingmaria and Curalina, Pletcher had a third Distaff starter this year in Got Lucky, who was never a factor.

My Sweet Addiction set the pace at 45-1, going in fractions of 23.57 seconds, 47.28, and 1:11.49, while Yahilwa and Wedding Toast gave closest chase before the others engulfed them. Castellano noted in the post-race press briefing that a key early move for Stopchargingmaria was tucking in behind Wedding Toast on the first turn before subtly angling out for an unobstructed and rhythmic run down the backstretch.

“I had a beautiful trip,” said Castellano.

The $2 exacta (4-9) paid $155.80, the $1 trifecta (4-9-8) returned $709.70, and the 10-cent superfecta (4-9-8-14) was worth $462.47.

The crowd was a record for a Breeders’ Cup Friday, which went to a two-day format in 2007.