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Stopchargingmaria returned to top form with a hard-fought victory in the $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes on Friday at Pimlico Race Course. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing

BALTIMORE – When in doubt, a horse can always be sent to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., for a welcome change of scenery.

Trainer Todd Pletcher decided to do that with Stopchargingmaria after she opened her season with two disappointing performances, and the reward was a dramatic reversal of form as she won the $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes by a neck over Vero Amore on Friday at Pimlico Race Course.

“We took her off the [Kentucky] Oaks trail and sent her to Saratoga and it was good for her, whether it was the cooler weather or her coming into herself,” Pletcher said.

Stopchargingmaria ran a dismal fifth, beaten by 14 ¼ lengths, in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes in her 3-year-old debut at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 22. Pletcher attributed that up-the-track effort to a Gulfstream surface that can really favor speed. He was without a ready explanation after the dark bay or brown filly by Tale of the Cat was no better than fourth in the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.

“In the Fantasy, we didn’t have much excuse,” Pletcher said. “She ran a bit evenly that day.”

He decided it was best to not press on to the Kentucky Oaks and to allow her to regroup at bucolic Saratoga. She soon began rattling off sharp workouts, including a four-furlong drill last Saturday in which she blazed the half-mile in :48.69, swiftest of 14 workouts at the distance that morning.

Stopchargingmaria, owned by Repole Stable, showed considerable promise at 2, winning three of five starts and never failing to crack the top three while earning $548,000.

Stopchargingmaria benefitted in the Black-Eyed Susan from a cool ride by Javier Castellano. The plan was for her to be forwardly placed. Instead, she was shuffled back entering the first turn of the 1 1/8-mile contest. Castellano never rushed his mount, despite the unexpected circumstances and completed the distance in 1:51.79.

STOPCHARGINGMARIA (outside) RALLIES TO THE FRONT IN BLACK-EYED SUSAN

BESInside

Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

“We come into the race with a Plan A,” Pletcher said, “but I want all of my riders to know I have confidence in them to call an audible.”

Said Castellano: “We saved ground going into the first turn and after that it was a matter of keeping her in the clear. I had ridden her before at Saratoga on an off-track, and she had no problems with it today at all. At the top of the stretch, I was pretty confident.”

Stopchargingmaria finished second on a sloppy track in the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes last Sept. 1 at Saratoga. The drying-out Pimlico surface was labeled “good” after heavy rain overnight and into the morning.

Pimlico Special Stakes: Pletcher added the lion’s share of this $300,000 purse to his previous success in the Black-Eyed Susan when Revolutionary, allowed to lope along in last in the early stages by Mike Smith, staged a prolonged rally and ran down Prayer for Relief to win by a neck in the 1 3/16-mile race.

Revolutionary was sidelined for the rest of last year after he followed a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby with a fifth-place effort in the Belmont Stakes. This was his first graded stakes success since he took the Louisiana Derby last March at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

For Equibase charts, click here.

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