'Maria' ouduels Untapable

The $200,000 Shuvee Handicap Aug. 2 was a two-horse race from the get-go between champion Untapable and multiple Grade 1 winner Stopchargingmaria, with the latter edging clear in the final sixteenth to win at Saratoga Race Course.

The pair vied for the lead at the start, before Untapable forged ahead with John Velazquez and led Stopchargingmaria, never more than length back in second, throughout on the outside. The pair matched strides into the stretch, with Stopchargingmaria getting the upper hand in the closing stages and winning by one length.

A 4-year-old Tale of the Cat filly campaigned by Town and Country Farms, Stopchargingmaria finished 1-1/8 miles in 1:49.79 with Javier Castellano riding for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Stopchargingmaria has won four of five starts at Saratoga, including her debut victory there in 2013. She returned to finish second in the Spinaway and the following year put together back-to-back victories in the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama. In her previous start, she won the Allaire duPont Distaff May 15 at Pimlico Race Course.

"You can see in Stopchargingmaria's personality that she loves it here at Saratoga," Pletcher said. " I was impressed that she battled down to the wire with Untapable. Our strategy was that we were going to try to get to the front, and Untapable came in with the same strategy.

Castellano said he thought he would have to dictate the pace with Stopchargingmaria, but Velazquez asserted his filly, who was first from the gate from post 4 and clipped off solid fractions of :23.54 seconds, :47.70 seconds, and 1:11.83 through six furlongs.

"I just took back a little bit," he said. "The most important thing about my position is that I was outside. I was able to choose where I wanted to be and it worked out great today. Good post, good setup, and turning for home, the filly was much the best."

Steve Asmussen, Untapable's trainer, said his filly should move forward in a big way and will be pointed to the Personal Ensign Aug. 29.

"I think this race will prove to be very important to her going forward," he said. "I think the fractions were solid; she was pretty sharp. I think we can stay in a nice rhythm here back to the Personal Ensign."

Bred in Kentucky by Harvey Clarke and Brookdale Farm, Stopchargingmaria is out of the Montbrook mare Exotic Bloom. She improved her record to 8-3-1 from 14 career starts.

Stopchargingmaria paid $4.80, $2.40, and $2.10, and Untapable returned $2.60 and $2.10. Tiz Windy, who chased the top two from third all the way,paid $3.30 to show.

House Rules was fourth, followed by Imposing Grace and Privet Hedge to complete finish.