SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Stopchargingmaria charged four-wide into the Saratoga stretch, and Sunday's 98th Coaching Club American Oaks was history. The final quarter-mile of the 3-year-old filly's five-length runaway was a formality, punctuated by cheers among owner Mike Repole's large entourage.
Javier Castellano knew he was on the best horse and rode the 6-5 favorite with complete confidence. He left behind dueling leaders Miss Besilu and Taketheodds, and runner-up Unbridled Forever had no chance to catch up. "I put her on the outside on the backstretch," Castellano said, "and I think that was the key. Turning for home, I thought the race was over. At the top of the stretch, she took off."
The daughter of Tale of the Cat ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.80 for her fifth win, and first in a Grade I, in nine starts for Todd Pletcher. Saratoga's 10-time champion trainer wasn't surprised. "We were expecting a big effort," he said. "I told Mike she's never trained better than she has here in the past month."
She won the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan by a neck at Pimlico last time out after opening the year with the only bad races of her career, fifth, beaten 14 lengths, Feb. 22 in the Grade II Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park and fourth, 6 1/2 lengths behind, April 5 in the Grade III Fantasy at Oaklawn Park. Being south of the Mason-Dixon Line didn't agree with her, because she's been thriving since returning to Saratoga in April.
"Those were really lousy races we weren't expecting," Repole said. "At first, we thought she just didn't train on from 2 to 3, but it had to be that she just didn't like Gulfstream and Oaklawn."
Stopchargingmaria is the third horse Repole has named to kid his wife about her dexterity with credit cards. The others were Stopspendingmaria and Stopshoppingmaria. Although the winner's share was worth $180,000 to Repole, the Nassau County resident wasn't counting his money, or at least the amount he would keep.
"Todd gets 10 percent, Javier gets 10 percent, and my wife is probably going to spend the rest of it," Repole said. When asked if that meant he'd break even for the weekend, he said, "No, I'm going to lose money. I've got 25 people up here."
Notes & quotes: Jockey Rosario Montanez had eye surgery Sunday at Albany Medical Center after being unseated in Saturday's fifth race. A New York Racing Association release said Montanez's optic nerve was not injured but that he will need additional surgery . . . Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist breezed 5 furlongs in 1:01.79 Saturday in his final workout for Saturday's Grade II Jim Dandy. Others expected for the Travers prep include Wicked Strong and Legend, with Samraat and Kid Cruz possibilities, according to trainers Rick Violette and Linda Rice, respectively . . . Untapable, the country's leading 3-year-old filly, is the likely favorite for Sunday's Haskell Invitational, Monmouth Park's marquee event, which also has drawn Triple Crown also-rans Social Inclusion, Medal Count and Wildcat Red plus Bayern, Albano, Irish You Well, Encryption and Just Call Kenny.