The Untapable Effect didn’t create a big field for the Coaching Club American Oaks, but it did force one horse into a longer-than-expected layoff.
And she’s the favorite, Stopchargingmaria, who is seeking the first Grade I victory of her career as six 3-year-old fillies go to post at Saratoga Race Course today.
Trainer Todd Pletcher said Stopchargingmaria was set to run in the Grade I Mother Goose at Belmont Park on June 28, then bailed on that race when Untapable, by far the division leader, entered.
Although Untapable is skipping the Coaching Club American Oaks to run against colts in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park next Sunday, the CCA Oaks drew just a field of six.
Grade II Black Eyed Susan winner Stopchargingmaria is the 8-5 morning-line favorite; the big question mark now is how she’ll respond off a moderately long layoff.
Owned by Repole Stable, she hasn’t raced in over two months, but that last one indicates that she’s ready to add a Grade I victory to her resume.
“That was the race we were hoping for,” Pletcher told the New York Racing Association. “She seemed to get it back together.”
Ridden by Javier Castellano, Stopchargingmaria stayed to the outside and gradually caught up to Vero Amore in the stretch.
Castellano cracked her once with a right-handed whip just outside the sixteenth pole and once again just inside it, but otherwise used confident hand riding to get her up by a neck over Vero Amore.
Stopchargingmaria, a daughter of Tale of the Cat, finished her 2-year-old season in promising fashion by winning the Grade III Tempted by 103⁄4 lengths and the Grade II Demoiselle by a neck over Got Lucky, but clunked her way through the start of her 3-year-old season in Florida.
She was off the board in the Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park and the Fantasy at Oaklawn Park.
“For whatever reason, she didn’t seem to thrive this winter in Florida,” Pletcher said. “Her first two races were not what we were hoping for. I shipped her to Saratoga not long after the Fantasy, and she seemed to really blossom at that time. The Black-Eyed Susan was seeing her back in her best form.”
Stopchargingmaria will break from the rail, with 9-5 second choice Unbridled Forever in the next stall over.
A daughter of Unbridled’s Song, Unbridled Forever hasn’t won a graded stakes, but was third in three straight, the Fair Grounds Oaks and Kentucky Oaks, each won by Untapable, and the Acorn behind Sweet Reason and Sweet Whiskey.
“She has done well since the Acorn,” trainer Dallas Stewart said. “She’s easy to train, and the distance shouldn’t be a problem. Joel Rosario said he didn’t like taking dirt in her face in the Acorn, and she backed up before she came with a late run.”
The 5-1 third choice, America, is owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay and has been banging around graded stakes company without a win since breaking her maiden at Belmont in October.
She was fifth in the Black Eyed Susan and third in the Mother Goose.
The Coaching Club American Oaks field also includes a $100,000 stakes for older turf sprinters, the Lucky Coin.
Saratoga-philic Strong Impact is the 2-1 second choice coming off a fifth to Compliance Officer at Belmont Park.
The 8-year-old gelding is 3-2-2 from eight starts at Saratoga, including a win in the Fiddlers Patriot last summer.
He won the John McSorley at Monmouth on June 8, six days before the loss to Compliance Officer.
Spring to the Sky, who finished up the track in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in November, is the 9-5 favorite.