By Jon Forbes | 07/02/2010 03:08 PM ET
What do you do after you lose a horse you named after a loved one to a claim? If you are Mike Repole, you buy another horse and also name it after that person.
Stopspendingmaria, whom Repole named in honor of his wife, drew off in hand to break her maiden by seven lengths on Thursday at Belmont Park and become the first 2-year-old featured in the New York Watch Series, which shines the spotlight on promising colts and fillies that have recently cleared the maiden and allowance ranks at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, or Saratoga Race Course.
Repole had already named a different horse, No Shopping Maria, after his wife, but was forced to part ways with the 5-year-old mare after she was claimed for $5,000 at Laurel Park in January.
“My wife doesn’t know as much about racing, and she couldn’t understand how I could sell her horse,” said Repole. “I promised her I’d name another horse after her. She thought I’d name it ‘Go Shopping Maria,’ but I’d never do that. She thinks [the name is] hysterical. She won’t stop shopping, but she thinks it’s funny.”
Repole chose a 2-year-old filly he purchased at this year’s OBS February Selected Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training to be the second horse whose name was inspired by his wife’s spending habits.
“I’ve got to give the credit to my racing manager Jim Martin and Todd Pletcher,” said Repole. “I wasn’t at the sale as I was vacationing in the Caribbean. I was really looking for colts who could possibly go long, and I asked Todd if there were any that day. He said, ‘I don’t like anything that could go long.’ And I said, ‘Well, if you could buy one horse with your own money, who would it be?”
The horse Pletcher recommended was a filly who had breezed two furlongs in 22 seconds flat (video) and was by Montbrook and out of a full-sister to the stakes winner Special Report. The team was willing to pay up to $150,000 buy the dark bay or brown filly, but the bidding stopped well short of that mark at $90,000.
Subsequently named Stopspendingmaria, the team had high expectations for the filly, who debuted at Monmouth Park on June 5. After breaking slowly, she made a middle move to challenge for the lead while racing wide on the turn and flattened out late to finish 5½ lengths behind the winner in third.
“I had never seen a six-horse race with a horse who was hung five-wide the entire time,” said Repole. “I wasn’t really disappointed with her first start, but Todd was pretty disappointed.”
Stopspendingmaria’s connections had no reason to be underwhelmed with her second start, as she drew clear under John Velazquez’s hand ride and covered 5½ furlongs in 1:03.97, en route to receiving a Beyer Speed Figure of 92.
“I’m shocked [at the figure],” said Repole. “I got about 20 text messages about that. The Beyer is one thing, but the way she did it is another. Johnny only nudged her. He never touched her. It was a public workout.”
Repole, who has won minor stakes and/or placed in graded stakes with horses like Digger, Driven by Success, Go Go Shoot, Lights Off Annie, Nonna Mia, Poovey, and Roaring Lion, is hopeful Stopspendingmaria will give him his first graded stakes victory.
“I’m going to talk to Todd, but we do know she’s going to Saratoga,” said Repole. “We’re thinking about the race on opening day [the Grade 3 Schuylerville on July 23] or the [Grade 2] Adirondack [on August 15].”
Many of the industry’s brightest stars embarked upon their careers at the NYRA tracks, including a number of recent Triple Crown race winners. Super Saver, Big Brown, Jazil, Birdstone, Funny Cide, and Empire Maker are all among the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes victors that kick-started their careers at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, or Saratoga.
The list also includes recent champions Gio Ponti and Indian Blessing; brilliant fillies Flashing, Little Belle, and Music Note; and the current top older male Quality Road, who has won three Grade 1 races so far in his career, including this year’s Metropolitan Handicap.