ELMONT, N.Y. - Sitting on a three-race streak, Stopchargingmaria is familiar with finding her way to the winner's circle. In order to make it four in a row, however, the 3-year-old filly will have to conquer a new challenge.
A multiple Grade 1 winner, Stopchargingmaria will face older horses for the first time in Saturday's Grade 1, $400,000 Beldame for fillies and mares at Belmont Park.
The 1 1/8-mile Beldame, in its 75th year, is one of six graded stakes on the 11-race TVG Super Saturday program, which is anchored by the 96th renewal of the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Trainer Todd Pletcher won last year's Beldame with Princess of Sylmar, who entered the race off consecutive victories in the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama, all Grade 1 races.
He is in a similar position this year with Mike Repole's Stopchargingmaria, winner of the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan on May 16 at Pimlico and the July 20 CCA Oaks and August 16 Alabama, both at Saratoga Race Course.
"They have pretty similar race records coming into it," Pletcher said. "They seem like two fillies that are in the kind of form that you want them to be in trying older horses for the first time. Anytime you step up against older fillies for the first time, that's the big question mark. It worked out well for Princess of Sylmar, so we're hoping she can do the same."
A sophomore daughter of Tale of the Cat, Stopchargingmaria lost her first two starts of 2014 during the winter before breaking through with a neck victory in Baltimore. She romped by five lengths in the CCA Oaks and came back four weeks later with a professional three-quarter length victory over long shots Joint Return and Miss Besilu in the Alabama.
"Our biggest concern in the Alabama was running her back in four weeks off really a lifetime best effort in the Coaching Club," Pletcher said. "We were happy that she was able to do that, and with it being her first time at a mile and a quarter, she handled that well, too."
Stopchargingmaria cuts back in the Beldame to 1 1/8 miles, a distance at which she is 3-for-3 lifetime. In her only other start at Belmont Park, she was third in the Grade 1 Frizette last October.
Pletcher skipped the 1 1/16-mile Cotillion for 3-year-old fillies at Parx Racing on September 20 with Stopchargingmaria, citing the timing, distance, opportunity to try older horses and not having to ship as deciding factors.
"One thing we were looking at with the Beldame was the fact that she does run very well fresh," Pletcher said. "The extra week might have been a little bit of a difference, but also the mile-and-an-eighth suits her well. She has three wins at a mile-and-an-eighth and now a mile-and-a-quarter win. It seems like she appreciates a little time between races, but she also seems to like the added distance, as well."
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez has the mount from post position 3 on Stopchargingmaria, who gets a three-pound break in weights as the only 3-year-old filly. She will carry 120 pounds and was listed as the 5-2 favorite on the morning line.
In her final tuneup for the race, Stopchargingmaria fired a bullet half-mile in 48.24 seconds on Monday over Belmont's training track.
"I thought she worked really well," Pletcher said. "She seems to be in very good form, and hopefully she runs as well as she's training."
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez is hoping Belle Gallantey will rebound from a disappointing effort in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign on August 22 at Saratoga, where she was sixth of seven, beaten 25 Â¼ lengths over the muddy, sealed main track.
In her career at Belmont Park, the 5-year-old After Market mare has two wins, two seconds and a third in nine tries. She was fifth, beaten just 1 Â¾ lengths, in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on June 7.
"I don't think she liked the track," Rodriguez said of the Personal Ensign. "The track was kind of hard that day and she was hitting the ground pretty hard. I'm just going to draw a line through it and hope that she comes back with another good race at Belmont. She likes Belmont, and hopefully she throws in another good race."
Prior to the Personal Ensign, Belle Gallantey upset favored Princess of Sylmar in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap - her fourth win in six 2014 starts since being claimed by owner Michael Dubb for $35,000 in the final race of her 4-year-old campaign.
"These kinds of races, they're not easy," Rodriguez said. "To win these kind of races, you have to be very, very lucky because they're tough to win, but she's coming up to the race very good. She's had a few nice works so she's coming up to it ready. She is doing good."
With Jose Ortiz up, Belle Gallantey drew post position 7 at 7-2 on the morning line.
Rounding out the Beldame field are Endless Chatter, making her graded stakes debut as a winner of three straight including the Summer Colony on August 18 at Saratoga; multiple graded stakes winner Fiftyshadesofhay, most recently second in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign; Grade 3 winner Stanwyck, who has placed in five straight graded stakes; Toasting, winner of the Sky Beauty stakes in her most recent start on September 7; and Oasis at Midnight.