An extremely uninteresting 3-year-old filly division got a little more interesting on Saturday.
A discussion that wasn’t taking place suddenly is.
There was only one way that this was going to happen, and Stopchargingmaria provided it.
In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of racing, Stopchargingmaria is Shailene Woodley to Untapable’s Jennifer Lawrence.
If you don’t know who Shailene Woodley is, look it up (like I did, lazy people).
Stopchargingmaria is the It Girl, and Untapable is the filly who tried to beat males in the Haskell Invitational and fell on her face, finishing a lousy fifth.
The question after Stopchargingmaria’s victory in the Alabama at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday was whether one side of the Grand Canyon shifted imperceptibly toward the other, or did it slide dramatically enough to threaten strangulation of the Colorado River?
Until Stopchargingmaria actually beats Untapable, dominant all year until her ambitious but empty dud of a Haskell, I’m opting for the former.
It’s the middle of August, and something extraordinary is going to have to happen for Stopchargingmaria to win the Eclipse Award.
I’m not saying it won’t happen, but besides the fact that Untapable’s resume is still better, Stopchargingmaria’s Alabama wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring.
For starters, her finish time of 2:05.14 was the slowest since Shuvee ran 2:06.4 in 1969 and is one of only three over that span to not be under 2:05.
I try not to get too crazy comparing times from year to year, but that sort of jumps off the page, doesn’t it?
Also, as befits a pretty drab year for 3-year-old fillies, the field for the Alabama wasn’t that interesting.
The bettors surely recognized that.
Stopchargingmaria went as low as 3-5 on the toteboard, settled in at even money when the gates opened and ran a nice, professional race to win by three-quarters of a length to back up her win in the Coaching Club American Oaks.
The four who finished directly behind her in the CCA Oaks came back for this one and lost again. The six who finished behind her in the Alabama each went off at odds between 10-1 and 30-1, and the only two who were taking some money, Unbridled Forever and Size, each 5-1, were the last two to get across the wire.
Stopchargingmaria’s camp, trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole, rightfully claimed that their filly is a threat to Untapable.
“Any time you win two Grade I’s with the significance of the Coaching Club and the Alabama, you close some ground,” Pletcher said. “We’ve got to keep winning, but we’ve closed the gap.”
“I would say that, after the last three races, this filly could be the best 3-year-old filly in the country, bar none,” Repole said. “And I think we’re going to go to the Cotillion, and Untapable is going to go out there, and you know what’s best about horse racing? You get to decide it out on the racetrack.”
You probably can tell which of the two in this pair is the careful one. The one who takes the slow mule trail to the floor of the canyon versus the one who takes the Evel Knievel rocket over the gorge.
Pletcher reined in the Cotillion talk and mentioned the Beldame as another possibility.
We’re at the point in the season when schedule management gets more difficult. It’s tougher to avoid the tough competition.
If Stopchargingmaria goes to the $1 million Cotillion, she likely gets Untapable. If it’s the Beldame, she likely gets a few of the top-level older fillies, perhaps even Princess of Sylmar, who won the Beldame last year in her quest for the 3-year-old filly Eclipse, and/or Close Hatches, the current division leader.
Stopchargingmaria’s Alabama didn’t convince me that she’s as good as Untapable. Still …
“Everyone wants to crown divisional champions in April and May and June and July,” Pletcher said. “Standing here in the winner’s circle a year ago with Princess of Sylmar, after she had won the Kentucky Oaks and Coaching Club and Alabama, then goes on to win the Beldame, who would’ve thought that she wasn’t going to be the champion?
“Strange things happen, and what happens later in the year seems to always count for more than what happens earlier in the year, whether that’s fair or not.”