Were she not Untapable with multiple Grade I wins, a Breeders' Cup triumph and an Eclipse Award trophy, her efforts this season probably wouldn't be viewed through a lens of disappointment.
Through five starts in 2015, the reigning divisional champion has ticked off another Grade I victory in the Apple Blossom and has not been worse than third in her other outings.
The penalty that comes with setting a bar high is little forgiveness when that height is not reached. And because Untapable hasn't been the same filly that tore through 2014 with a loss against males in the Haskell her only blemish in seven starts, judgments become harsh.
Because Untapable is still Untapable, she merits a big target when she loads into the starting gate. Winchell Thoroughbreds' homebred filly gets a chance to rebuff those writing her best days off as a thing of the past when she heads a field of nine in Sunday's Grade I, $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster going 11⁄8 miles at Keeneland.
This time a year ago, Untapable was marching virtually unopposed toward the 2014 Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old filly with Grade I wins in the Kentucky Oaks, Mother Goose Stakes and Cotillion all setting the stage for her exclamation-point triumph over older girls in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
There have been admirable outings and excuses along the way this year, but the bay filly hasn't put up the runs that were the norm for her in 2014. The tone was set when she was upset during her season debut in the Grade II Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 14. Though she rebounded to take the Apple Blossom by 21/2 lengths on April 10, back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Grade I Ogden Phipps and Grade III Shuvee were followed by her most recent outing, a third-place finish in the Grade I Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 29.
"I think her year has gone ... it just hasn't really gone her way," said David Fiske, manager for Winchell Thoroughbreds. "Things haven't broke her way so far this year but there is really no difference in her this year and last year. And she's been the highweight in all those races. She's been giving weight to everyone and she's still finishing up pretty close, it's not like she was beaten 20 lengths in any of those races.
"She's freakishly sound, knock on wood, and her attitude is good. She still likes what she's doing."
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Untapable has won over six different tracks in her career so handling the Keeneland surface out of post No. 3 shouldn't be a big concern as she attempts to solidify plans for her to try and defend her title in the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Oct. 30.
She's not the only Oaks winner in the field trying to quiet critics with a strong run. Brereton Jones's Lovely Maria, winner of the Grade I Ashland at Keeneland this April, seeks her first victory since taking the Kentucky Oaks this May having finished off the board in both the Grade III Delaware Oaks and Grade I Alabama.
The daughter of Majesticperfection had an excuse in Delaware as trainer Larry Jones had a virus going through his barn at the time and she came back "covered in mucus" according to Jones.
Her sire's sprinter bloodlines are what likely cost her in the 11/4-mile Alabama when she made a winning surge but flattened out in the stretch.
"Maria hasn't run bad and when we got to the Alabama I think the mile and quarter was too far," Larry Jones said. "We really felt like for the Oaks and for the Ashland here, getting the 11⁄16-1 1⁄8 miles was a blessing with her having that much speed pedigree on the top side. We were never thinking 11/4 miles until she got good. But she has trained really well since coming back in here, she seems on top of her game."