Mike Langford has campaigned two millionaires, but it's a horse with $256,800 in earnings under the care of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen that the Jonesboro, Ark., owner calls his most talented runner to date.
"At this stage, absolutely," Langford said of lightly raced Untrapped. "He's the total package. Like Steve was saying, he's so smart. You can literally shoot a cannon beside him and he'd look at the cannon and say, 'Why did you do that?' He doesn't get rattled. The other horses just didn't have the talent this colt has."
Untrapped, who worked four furlongs in :51 flat at Oaklawn April 9, has never finished worse than third in five career starts and the last three came in graded stakes company.
"Mike's got a nice horse," Asmussen said.
Entering the Arkansas Derby off a third-place finish in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 18, Untrapped finished two lengths behind unbeaten Malagacy, who is also scheduled to make his next start in the Arkansas Derby. Only a nose separated Untrapped from his third consecutive runner-up finish.
Bred in Kentucky by Indian Creek and Jonathan Sheppard, Untrapped made his previous two starts at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, finishing second in the $200,000 LeComte Stakes (G3) Jan. 21 and $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) Feb. 25.
"I don't think that horse would have beaten us the other day if we had another week of training," Langford said of Malagacy. "But that's just me. I think we asked a little bit too much of him, shipping him up here and running him back in three weeks. And Steve told me that before the race. We were asking a lot of him."
Langford, a commercial real estate developer, has owned horses for approximately 30 years, campaigning among others, multiple graded stakes winner and millionaire Jonesboro and multiple stakes winner and millionaire Carve.
Jonesboro, out of Hall of Famer Mom's Command, sold for only $27,000 at the 2003 Keeneland September yearling sale, but earned $1,550,685 in a 50-race career.
On behalf of Langford, Asmussen claimed Carve for $30,000 out of his debut victory at the 2013 Oaklawn meeting. Carve, among four horses Langford has in training, has amassed $1,022,940 in a career that figures to wind down this year.
Conversely, Langford purchased Untrapped for $125,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s spring sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Langford joked that "unfortunately," it's not the most he's ever spent for a horse at auction.
"That's in my wheelhouse, though," Langford said. "I'm a $75,000 to $125,000 guy. That's in my wheelhouse. I don't do the $200,000s. It's hard to make it."
Langford, who turned 54 April 6, has never had a Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) starter, but Untrapped ranks 13th with 34 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, which is limited to 20 starters.
The Arkansas Derby offers 170 points (100-40-20-10) to the top four finishers.
"We need to run fourth or better," Langford said. "I think we will, if we get a good trip."
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith is scheduled to ride Untrapped for the first time in the Arkansas Derby.
Seeking his first Arkansas Derby victory, Langford's Torrid Sand was elevated from third to second in 1999 following Valhol's disqualification and Carve ran third in 2013.
Langford said winning his home track's biggest race is on his bucket list.
"Obviously, the Kentucky Derby is number one, but this would be a close second," Langford said.