By Dick Downey
The 140th Kentucky Oaks was Untapable’s race to win or lose, and she performed with style.
Ridden by Rosie Napravnik, Untapable settled in fourth position four wide going down the backstretch before getting the lead leaving the far turn and pulling away from My Miss Sophia.
Sent off at even-money odds in the field of 12, Untapable finished 4 1/2 lengths ahead of second finisher My Miss Sophia going away. Unbridled Forever was another six lengths back in third. They were followed by Rosalind, Thank You Marylou, Ria Antonia, Got Lucky, Sugar Shock, Aureleia’s Belle, Please Explain, Fashion Plate and Kiss Moon. Empress of Midway flipped in the gate, causing a delay in the start of the race, and was scratched.
Untapable was timed in 1:48.68 for the 1 1/8 mile on a track rated fast – a mere 4/100 of a second off the stakes record set by Bird Town in 2003.
Untapable was worked up as she was led into the paddock before the race, but she calmed down and relaxed for Napravnik once the gate opened.
It was the fifth win from seven races by Untapable. Most recently, she demolished the Fair Grounds Oaks field. The filly that ran second by 7 3/4 lengths that day, Fiftyshadesofgold, won the seven-furlong Eight Belles earlier on the Oaks day card.
Untapable debuted at Churchill Downs with a maiden special weight win on June 20. She followed that up taking the Pocahontas Stakes at the track on Sept. 2 but had a disastrous outing in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in her next start. She concluded her 2-year-old campaign by finishing third in the Hollywood Starlet, then opened 2014 with a win in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes in preparation for the Fair Grounds Oaks.
The $1,000,000 Oaks was won for the second time in three years by Napravnik, who rode Believe You Can to victory in 2012.
Steve Asmussen, who’s been a subject of controversy since the recent release of a video portraying his stable in a bad light, trains the daughter of Tapit. She’s out of the Prized mare Fun House. Ron Winchell, the owner, bred Untapable in Kentucky.
Untapable returned backers $4.00 to win, $3.20 to place and $2.60 to show.
A start in the Preakness Stakes for Untapable is not unthinkable in some quarters. The second leg of the Triple Crown is set for May 17. Asmussen said how Tapiture fares in the Kentucky Derby could help settle the question.
The Oaks was the feature race on a day when Churchill Downs said attendance was 113,071.
Steve Asmussen, trainer of Untapable, winner – What makes her special? "How fast she is. On this stage under the circumstances...the filly in the gates, the paddock, how congested it is, how many people are here, this doesn't get any bigger. The anxiety level once they backed them out and reloaded them took it to a whole new level but once she was away smoothly it was all good from there.
"The development of the filly, I think Rosie has been a key part of it. After the bad race in the Breeders' Cup, I think the filly got back on track, ran a little bit better in the Starlet, but onCe we moved her to New Orleans, I thought the filly grew up a lot, filled out considerably. Riding Rosie over the last few winters on several horses, having some success with her, liking her demeanor and her way with her, especially with one as talented as Untapable, but also a touch on the moody side. I think it's a perfect match."
Rosie Napravnik, jockey of Untapable, winner – “I wasn't worried about the post like some people were. We got into a great position. She runs her best when she can get into a great stride and she relaxes so nicely. She has grown up and she is maturing. She is magnificent. She shuts off and she relaxes. She kind of gives me the ear twitch like ‘when do you want to go?’ She is absolutely fabulous.
“She came out of the paddock a little hot but she really calmed down when she got on the track and there was a lot more space and less people. We went in the gate the first time and took the halter and shank off right before it happened, so she was without that. When we came out, we had to walk around behind and she relaxed more than she was before. She stood in the gate perfectly and got out perfectly. She is perfect.
“It is just a great feeling. I am so thankful for Steve and for the Winchells having me on the filly. They have done such a great job. They take their time with this filly and she is just maturing. She is moving forward all the time and she was perfect today.
Todd Pletcher, trainer of My Miss Sophia, second and Got Lucky, seventh – “I thought My Miss Sophia ran very well. She was well clear of the third-place horse. I’m very proud of her effort in just her fourth career start. Got Lucky made up a little ground late, but the quick pace we needed never developed.”
Javier Castellano, jockey of My Miss Sophia, second – “I feel very fortunate to have gotten second. I don’t want to take anything away from the winner because she ran a great race. I’m very happy with my filly.”
Dallas Stewart, trainer of Unbridled Forever, third – "Congratulations to Untapable and everybody there. We got outrun. She ran a great race. I'm very proud of my horse. Proud of Chuck Fipke. He bred her. What can I say? We'll be back here next year with another one of his, hopefully.''
Kenny McPeek, trainer of Rosalind, fourth – “She had a good trip. It looked like they ran away from her a little bit. She ran all right.”
Joel Rosario, jockey of Rosalind, fourth – “She had a good trip. She started to make a little move, but the horses up front kept on running. She did all right. The winner was very impressive.”
Mike Maker, trainer of Thank You Marylou, fifth –"Just got outrun.''
Bob Baffert, trainer of Ria Antonia, sixth – “I think we got beat by a great filly. My filly was right there; she had a good trip.”
Mike Smith, jockey of Ria Antonia, sixth – “I had her out in a good spot. I was where I wanted to be. I wanted to pounce on (Untapable). But she’s too good. The only thing I did was make her run faster.”
John Velazquez, jockey of Got Lucky, seventh – “I was so far back, I don’t know anything about the race. I only had one horse beat all the way around. She just never got into the race.”
Doug Anderson, trainer of Sugar Shock, eighth – “She ran her race. We got outrun. We are happy where we are at. Calvin said she was comfortable. Maybe a mile or a mile and a sixteenth is better for her. Maybe not the mile and an eighth.”
Calvin Borel, jockey of Sugar Shock, eighth – “She broke good. She was doing fine. No excuses. I just don’t believe she can go that far. It wasn’t that fast. (A 47-second half-mile) for these kinds of horses it isn’t really that fast. I don’t think it was that. I just don’t think she can go that far.”
Wayne Catalano, trainer of Aurelia’s Belle, ninth – “We thought she'd handle the dirt better than she did."
Channing Hill, jockey of Aurelia’s Belle, ninth – "I thought she’d like the dirt more looking at her Gulfstream form. She moved nice to the half-mile pole. At the half-mile pole she tossed her head and got to swimming through the dirt.”
Tom Proctor, trainer of Please Explain, 10th – “There’s not much good to say. She didn’t run much, but that’s all she had. Give kudos to the winner.”
Jose Lezcano, jockey of Please Explain, 10th – “She never showed me anything. She made a little move out of the gate but then just didn’t keep up.”
Simon Callaghan, trainer of Fashion Plate, 11th – “She lost all her chance at the start and just had difficulty with the other filly and broke last. It was not her game from there.”
Gary Stevens, jockey of Fashion Plate, 11th – “She was real tight in the gate. When the first filly (Empress of Midway) flipped, she tried to flip. She never has had to stand in the gate that long and she’s used to smaller fields. As soon as the gate opened, my race was over. It was very disappointing.”
David Vance, trainer of Kiss Moon, 12th – “She seems to be fine. She banged her head in the gate a bit and didn't hurt herself. (All the chaos) didn't help her and she didn't break well. She just was never in position. The pace didn't work out right for us either. We'll see. Time will tell. We have a grass future with her and probably will pull the plug the main track."
Victor Espinoza, jockey of Kiss Moon, 12th – "All the problems started with my horse at the gate. I missed the break, she dropped far back and she didn't have a lot of run. She got nervous in there after everything happened with the 10 (Empress of Midway) and I think that affected her."
Doug O’Neill, trainer of Empress of Midway (Scrated at the gate) -- “She was in the gate and they were having a little trouble loading the favorite. They were smooching at her (Untapable) and it riled my filly up some. She false broke. Then she went down. Thanks goodness she was smart enough to stay down and not move; she didn’t go to thrashing. They got her out of there and we’ve got her now back at the barn. She’s fine. I’d say she’s 100 percent. We’ll fight another day.”
Corey Nakatani, jockey of Empress of Midway, (Scratched at the gate) -- "I got in the gate with no warning and she just flipped over. The track vets did the right thing by taking her back to paddock and scratching her and being safe."