Untapable one mean foe for Kentucky Oaks contenders

awincze@herald-leader.comMay 1, 2014 

  • Kentucky Oaks

    THE RACE

    When: 5:49 p.m. Friday

    Where: Churchill Downs

    Distance: 11⁄8 miles

    Purse: $1 million (Grade I)

    For: 3-year-old fillies

    TV: NBC Sports Network

    THE FIELD

    No. Horse Jockey Odds

    1 Please Explain Lezcano 50-1

    2 Ria Antonia Smith 10-1

    3 Sugar Shock Borel 12-1

    4 Rosalind Rosario 8-1

    5Thank You MarylouLeparoux 30-1

    6 Kiss Moon Espinoza 30-1

    7 Fashion Plate Stevens 6-1

    8 Aurelia's Belle Hill 50-1

    9 Unbridled Forever Albarado 12-1

    10Empress of MidwayNakatani 50-1

    11 My Miss SophiaCastellano8-1

    12 Got LuckyVelazquez20-1

    13 Untapable Napravnik 4-5

LOUISVILLE — When her connections talk about Untapable inspiring fear, they aren't just adding to the hype the daughter of Tapit has generated in her six-race career.

"She doesn't really like people that much," said David Fiske, racing manager for the filly's owner and breeder, Winchell Thoroughbreds. "(Trainer) Steve (Asmussen) said, 'I don't even want to make eye contact with her.'"

Intimidating as she is within the shedrow, Untap-able has also been the bully of the sophomore filly ranks this season, a reputation she will attempt to further cement when she heads a field of 13 entered in Friday's $1 million Kentucky Oaks.

Although the post-position draw landed the bay filly in the far outside spot for the 11⁄8-mile race, Untapable was made the 4-5 choice on the morning line over a field that also features multiple Grade I winner Fashion Plate.

Untapable may not yet have a Grade I victory but her wins in the Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes and Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks — won by a combined 173/4 lengths — have been roundly considered the most impressive outings in the division this year.

Only five horses went to post in the Fair Grounds Oaks, but at the time it was considered to have three of the top hopefuls for the first Friday in May with Untapable, Unbridled Forever and Fiftyshadesofgold in the field.

Untapable made a mockery of the competition when she sat just off of pacesetter Fiftyshadesofgold and kicked to the front under minimal urging from jockey Rosie Napravnik.

"Her talent level is not in question," said Asmussen, who won the Oaks for Winchell Thoroughbreds in 2005. "It's been a big learning experience for us. We had in our mind where we wanted to put her. We've learned to let her do things as opposed to make her do things."

Aside from her eighth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies where she was shuffled back and had to check, the only other time Untapable has not been in the winner's circle was when she finished third in the Grade I Hollywood Starlet over a synthetic track last December.

Her form at Churchill Downs only adds to the filly's favored ranking. After breaking her maiden at first asking under the Twin Spires going 51/2 furlongs last June, Untapable scored a half-length win in the Grade II Pocahontas Stakes going 11⁄16 miles on Sept. 7, beating the likes of fellow Oaks entrant and eventual Grade I winner Rosalind that day.

"She's doing everything exactly the right way," said Napravnik, who became the first female jockey to win the Oaks when she guided Believe You Can to victory in 2012. "She's just always been improving since the first race that she ran."

After making her first two career starts on synthetic surfaces, Fashion Plate is unbeaten in three tries on dirt — all coming in gate-to-wire fashion.

Fashion Plate reigned in the Grade I Las Virgenes on Feb. 1 and defeated Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Ria Antonia by 11/4 lengths in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks going 11⁄16 miles on April 5.

"She really transformed when she got on the dirt and she was more mature," said trainer Simon Callaghan.

Fashion Plate probably won't have her way on the front end in the Oaks as Fantasy Stakes winner Sugar Shock and Grade II Gazelle Stakes heroine My Miss Sophia figure to be in the running to lead the field down the backstretch.

"It's a very tough race, there are some strong fillies in there like Untapable and Rosalind," said Bob Baffert, trainer of Ria Antonia. "She just needs to get away from the gate and get in her groove."

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.

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