Untapable, the overwhelming 4-5 morning line favorite in the May 2 Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), has worked hard for the odds she received. But the bay daughter of Tapit will face a true test of talent when she squares off against 12 other highly capable fillies in the 1 1/8-mile race on the main track at Churchill Downs.
The $1 million Kentucky Oaks, one of five graded stakes on Churchill's Friday card, is worth $570,400 to the winner and highlights a 12-race program. First post time is 10:30 a.m. (all times Eastern) with the Oaks going as the 11th race at 5:49 p.m.
Bred and owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, Untapable piqued in form this year, with two convincing victories in as many starts in the Feb. 22 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. III) and March 29 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) by a combined margin of 17 1/4 lengths. The filly has also been training forwardly at Churchill the last few weeks. In her most recent work, she cruised through four furlongs in :48 3/5, registering the seventh-fastest move of 59 at the distance.
"She had a really good morning today," trainer Steve Asmussen said from the Churchill backstretch May 2. "We've just been trying to keep her loose and happy."
Asmussen was impressed early on by Untapable, a half sister to grade I winner Paddy O'Prado and out of the grade II-winning Prized mare Fun House, both of which excelled over the grass.
"She's very aware of how good she is and has a tremendous amount of presence about her," Asmussen said. "She's an extremely confident horse."
Untapable, who broke her maiden on her first try at Churchill last June, stepped up quickly in class to score in the Pocahontas (gr. II) in September. Her only off-the-board effort came when eighth in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) behind fellow Oaks contender Ria Antonia.
"She's a different physical now than she was then," said Asmussen. "With the extra time and growth, she is special at this stage for the Oaks...hopefully it's a coming out party for her on a national level."
Untapable will break from the outside post 13 under jockey Rosie Napravnik, who has been aboard for all four of her victories.
Ria Antonia, installed at odds of 10-1, could be the filly to steal victory from Untapable. Owned by Christopher Dunn and Ron Paloochi's Loooch Racing Stable, she raced three wide around the second turn of the April 5 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I), and missed by 1 1/4 lengths to Fashion Plate. Ria Antonia will seek to avenge her distant fourth-place finish to Untapable in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes, her seasonal bow.
"She's handled everything really well here," said trainer Bob Baffert of Ria Antonia, who is the sole horse he trains for Dunn and Paloochi. She will break from post 2 under Mike Smith. "She's a beautifully-moving filly and has been moving really well over this racetrack. She worked well the other day, so we expect a big effort. It will be a pretty tough race, but I feel confident she'll run big."
Also worthy of consideration is the speedy Sugar Shock, who led all the way in the Fantasy Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn last out and has finished first in four consecutive starts (disqualified once for interference). The Oaks will mark Sugar Shock's deepest test of competition, but she looks to be ready for the task for Iowa-based trainer Doug Anderson and Cloud Nine Racing.
Calvin Borel has the riding assignment on Sugar Shock, who will exit post 3.
California-based Fashion Plate also brings solid credentials to the Oaks this year with three straight scores, including the Last Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks (both gr. I). She raced on the front end in both contests, holding on gamely for victory.
Trained by Simon Callaghan, Fashion Plate will be ridden by the highly skilled Gary Stevens from post 7.
Rosalind will enter the Oaks in top condition for trainer Kenny McPeek. In her last effort, she unleashed a bold, late rally from off the pace and held on for a dead heat victory with Room Service in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes (gr. I).
The filly, to be ridden by jockey Joel Rosario from post 4, turned in a solid work at Churchill April 26 when she covered four furlongs in :49 2/5.
Trainer Dallas Stewart is confident in the chances of Unbridled Forever, who is out of 2006 Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever. Unbridled Forever launched her sophomore campaign with a victory in the Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds after going three wide in the second turn.
She will seek to turn the tables on Untapable in the Kentucky Oaks after being a well-beaten third to that filly in the Fair Grounds Oaks.
$1,000,000 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I, approximate post time 5:49 p.m. ET), 3YO fillies, 1 1/8 miles (dirt)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Please Explain (KY), J Lezcano, T F Proctor, 50-1
2. Ria Antonia (KY), M E Smith, B Baffert, 10-1
3. Sugar Shock (KY), C H Borel, D L Anderson, 12-1
4. Rosalind (KY), J Rosario, K G McPeek, 8-1
5. Thank You Marylou (VA), J R Leparoux, M J Maker, 30-1
6. Kiss Moon (KY), V Espinoza, D R Vance, 30-1
7. Fashion Plate (KY), G L Stevens, S Callaghan, 6-1
8. Aurelia's Belle (KY), C Hill, W M Catalano, 50-1
9. Unbridled Forever (KY), R Albarado118, D Stewart, 12-1
10. Empress of Midway (KY), C S Nakatani, D F O'Neill, 50-1
11. My Miss Sophia (KY), J Castellano, T A Pletcher, 8-1
12. Got Lucky (KY), J R Velazquez, T A Pletcher, 20-1
13. Untapable (KY), R Napravnik, S M Asmussen, 4-5
All carry 121 pounds.