Stopchargingmaria never stopped charging through the Pimlico stretch in Friday's Grade 2, $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan, and ultimately wore down a determined Vero Amore to win the 1 1/8-mile fixture for three-year-old fillies for owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher.
Rating in sixth down the backside as Image of Anna rattled off splits of :23 3/5, :48 4/5 and 1:14 1/5, Stopchargingmaria advanced closer to the leader around the far turn as Vero Amore, a 15-1 chance who prompted the pacesetter from second, seized the lead before the quarter pole. In the stretch, the two dueled on mostly even terms until Stopchargingmaria edged clear in the final yards to win by a neck.
"It set up perfectly for us and I had a beautiful trip," Castellano said. "We figured there'd be a lot of speed and I just wanted to put her in a good position. 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."
Vero Amore safely held second, 2 3/4 lengths clear of Fortune Pearl. The order of finish was rounded out by Joint Return, America, Arethusa, La Mejor Fiesta, Shannon Nicole, 3-1 favorite Sloane Square, Euphrosyne, and Image of Anna.
The Black-Eyed Susan was the second Grade 2 win for Stopchargingmaria, who landed the Demoiselle at Aqueduct by a neck last November. She kicked off her juvenile campaign with a 5 1/2-length debut win at Saratoga, and followed that with a second in the Spinaway and third in the Frizette. Her Demoiselle score was preceded by a 10 3/4-length triumph in the Tempted, also at Aqueduct.
The daughter of Tale of the Cat went unplaced in two starts earlier this season, finishing fifth in the Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park and fourth in the Fantasy at Oaklawn Park. Her record now stands at 8-4-1-1, $874,000.
"To be honest, I'm not really sure why her first two races this year didn't go as well as last year," Pletcher said. "It took her a little while after the Fantasy (April 5 at Oaklawn) to get back. After the Fantasy we took her up to Saratoga and the cool weather seemed to invigorate her. Today she acted like she was back to her old self.
"I like this race; I think it's my fourth Black Eyed Susan," added Pletcher, who previously won with Spun Sugar (2005), Panty Raid (2007), and In Lingerie (2012).
A $220,000 OBS two-year-old in training purchase, Stopchargingmaria was reared by Exotic Bloom, a multiple stakes-winning daughter of Montbrook. Grade 2 winner Vision and Verse hails from this family, which descends from an old Greentree Farm line the yielded noted sire Stop the Music and multiple Grade 1 winner Hatchet Man.
Stopchargingmaria was bred in Kentucky by Harvey Clarke and Brookdale Farm.