By Frank Angst
Stopchargingmaria held off Stellar Wind by a neck and withstood a review by the stewards to score a close victory in the $2 million Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) Oct. 30 at Keeneland.
Town and Country Farms' Stopchargingmaria drifted out in the stretch, leading to a stewards' inquiry and objection after the race. The stewards ruled there was insufficient evidence to change the order of finish.
With the victory, Todd Pletcher and jockey Javier Castellano completed a sweep of the two Breeders' Cup dirt races the card before a record Breeders' Cup Friday crowd of 44,947. The 4-year-old daughter of Tale of the Cat completed the 1 1/8-mile test in 1:48.98 and now boasts three grade I wins.
Pletcher acknowledged that his filly drifted out but told NBC Sports Network that he didn't think a foul occurred, noting that he didn't think it was as bad as Bayern's start in last year's Classic.
Stopchargingmaria returned $16.20 to win, $8.40 to place, and $6 to show. Hronis Racing's Stellar Wind paid $9.20 and $6.60 while Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Curalina returned $7 to show.
Early in Friday's race, My Sweet Addiction—who stumbled at the start—and Yahilwa dueled through a half-mile in :47.28. My Sweet Addiction faded in the turn, but Yahilwa was one of seven horses lined up across the track as they turned for home. Stopchargingmaria and Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) winner Stellar Wind would emerge from that group and they continued well to the wire.
Pletcher, who picked up his ninth Breeders' Cup win, said a key was when the owner allowed him to rest Stopchargingmaria after her fourth-place finish in the Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 29 at Saratoga Race Course.
"The real key was when we made the decision not to run back after the Personal Ensign and train her up to this," Pletcher said. "Being able to her in her 2- and 3-year-old years, I know that she runs her best races sometimes when she's fresh. I think that was the key, and how she trained here.
"I thought her work here on (Oct. 24, four furlongs in :47) was exceptional. She's the kind of filly who when she breezes like, that, she tips herself. I thought that's what she did in her breeze the other day."
Winning jockey Javier Castellano, who secured his sixth Breeders' Cup win, said the filly out of the Montbrook mare Exotic Bloom, ran a great race.
"You always get scared when this happens because it's such a big race and you don't want to get taken down, but I did nothing wrong," Castellano said of the inquiry. "My horse ran a great race, and I kept a straight path and was keeping the horse straight."
Trainer John Sadler thought Stellar Wind put herself in position for Eclipse Award consideration as champion 3-year-old filly.
"I am thrilled with our filly," Sadler said. "She ran a great race and she showed herself to be the top 3-year-old filly in the country. I think she is deserving of an Eclipse Award. She really ran an outstanding race. She had to go so wide. She had a lot of work to do on this kind of tight-turn track. But she really ran well."
Kiki Courtelis' Town and Country Farms' privately bought Stopchargingmaria before this racing season and that purchase paid dividends Friday.
Repole Stable campaigned Stopchargingmaria to a pair of 2014 grade I victories then opted to sell the filly after last season. When Stopchargingmaria failed to reach her reserve on a top bid of $3,150,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale, Town and Country reached out to Repole through Pletcher to buy the filly.
Pletcher had trained Stopchargingmaria for Repole. The new owners kept the filly with the multiple Eclipse Award winner.