Multiple Grade 2 heroine Stopchargingmaria will attempt to garner her first Grade 1 when she returns from a two-month layoff in the $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on Sunday at Saratoga.
The CCA Oaks will send six sophomore fillies 1 1/8 miles and will be shown live on Fox Sports 1 during a broadcast that will run from 5:30-7:30 p.m. (EDT). The broadcast, which will also show the Grade 1 Eddie Read from Del Mar, is part of the "Jockey Club Tour on FOX" series.
Stopchargingmaria is two-for-two at the nine-furlong distance, having won the Demoiselle last November at Aqueduct and Black-Eyed Susan on May 16 at Pimlico in her most recent start. The Tale of the Cat filly launched her career at Saratoga last July, debuting a 5 1/2-length winner in a maiden race before finishing second in the Spinaway. She was third in the Frizette and finally returned to the winner's circle with a 10-length romp in the one-mile Tempted at Aqueduct on November 3 for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Just 27 days later, Stopchargingmaria closed out her juvenile campaign when adding the Demoiselle to her resume. After finishing fifth in her sophomore bow in the February 22 Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park and fourth in the April 5 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park, the dark bay miss regained winning form by rallying from sixth to take the Black-Eyed Susan by a neck.
"(The Black-Eyed Susan) was the race we were hoping for," Pletcher stated. "She seemed to get it back together.
"For whatever reason, she didn't seem to thrive this winter in Florida. 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.
"We entered her in the (June 28) Mother Goose (at Belmont) but decided when Untapable ran (in that race) that since our filly had already been multiple Grade 1-placed, the Coaching Club would be our best shot of winning a Grade 1," Pletcher added.
Javier Castellano will ride Stopchargingmaria, the 8-5 favorite on the morning-line, from post position 1.
Unbridled Forever is looking for a breakthrough win in the Coaching Club American Oaks, having finished third in three straight graded stakes. In January, the Unbridled's Song filly captured the Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds but followed up with a third in the Fair Grounds Oaks in March. The daughter of 2006 Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever was unable to duplicate her dam's success under the Twin Spires, finishing third in the May 2 Kentucky Oaks, then shipped to Belmont and filled that same spot in the one-mile Acorn on June 7.
"She has done well since the Acorn," trainer Dallas Stewart said. "She's easy to train, and the distance shouldn't be a problem. (Jockey) 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."
Unbridled Forever, the 9-5 morning line second choice, will leave from post 2 with Rosario aboard.
Another filly stretching out from a one-turn mile is Taketheodds, who broke her maiden by 3 3/4 lengths traveling seven furlongs on May 31 and posting a 1 1/4-length victory following a five-wide move in an allowance on June 26. Both those races came at Churchill Downs, and the bay daughter of Street Sense will actually be making her first start outside the friendly confines of that track in the CCA Oaks.
"It's a step up in class," trainer Ian Wilkes acknowledged. "Going from (an entry-level allowance) to a Grade 1 is a big step up, but the filly is improving and it's worth a shot. I'm not sure (how she'll handle the 1 1/8-mile distance), but I think she'll love going longer. I think two turns is what she wants to do."
Brian Hernandez Jr. has the call aboard Taketheodds, 8-1 on the morning-line, from post 6.
The CCA Oaks field is completed by Miss Besilu, runner-up in an optional claimer on June 19 at Belmont; Courageous Julie, who won an optional claimer on June 26 at Churchill; and America, third in both the June 28 Mother Goose and March 29 Gulfstream Park Oaks thus far this season.
Also on Sunday program, a field of six will line up for the $100,000 Lucky Coin Stakes going 5 1/2 furlongs over the Saratoga turf. Strong Impact has the most experience over the track, racking up a 3-2-2 mark from eight starts at the Spa including last July's Fiddlers Patriot Stakes. The eight-year-old gelding captured the June 8 John McSorley Stakes at Monmouth Park right after being claimed and transferring to trainer David Jacobson's barn, but was fifth last out in a state-bred allowance over Belmont's yielding grass.