Kentucky Oaks Favorite Untapable All Business

Kentucky Oaks Favorite Untapable All Business
Photo: Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs Photo
Untapable at Churchill Downs

The only drama in a half-mile breeze by likely Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) favorite Untapable came before the start of her work April 27 at Churchill Downs, but regular exercise rider Angel Garcia proved up to that challenge.

Once allowed to run, the daughter of Tapit   delivered a strong move.

A homebred for Winchell Thoroughbreds, Untapable cruised through four furlongs in :48 3/5 at about 6:25 a.m. Sunday. On a morning that some Derby hopefuls would register relatively slow works about two hours later, Untapable posted the seventh-fastest move of 59 at the distance.

Trainer Steve Asmussen was pleased with the breeze by his Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) winner and credited Garcia for keeping the spirited filly in check as she approached the start of the workout. Untapable pulled and bucked a bit but Garcia gave no quarter as they approached the pole.

"She was very full of herself. I thought Angel did a good job of getting her to the pole because she's very physical," Asmussen said. "She went around there really smooth. She's obviously a filly with a tremendous amount of talent. We're just trying to keep her on the ground, keep her running."

Asmussen's stable was the focus of a video produced by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals earlier this year that has led to investigations by regulatory bodies in Kentucky and New York. But at Churchill the Eclipse Award-winning trainer has focused on his horses, which include Untapable and Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) hopeful Tapiture, who is scheduled to breeze April 28.

For Untapable's breeze on Sunday, Asmussen opted to not send a pony on the track because he feared it would bring out even more of the competitive juices of the filly who rolled to a 7 3/4-length victory in the Fair Grounds Oaks March 29.

"I didn't want to pony her around there to the pole and then break her off and just have her be horribly aggressive," Asmussen said, before complimenting Garcia's efforts. "That's a lot of horse under you. Everybody can work a slow horse correctly; there's not a lot of things that can happen. But when you have that much horse talent to deal with, it puts quite a bit of pressure on you."

Untapable enters off back-to-back wins at Fair Grounds. Before the Fair Grounds Oaks, she won the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. III).

"(Garcia) has got along with her all winter in New Orleans extremely well and I love a routine; I love consistency," Asmussen said. "I think it measures where you're at. You take some of the variables out. With how well he knows her, they're in sync."

David Fiske, manager of the Ron Winchell's Oak Wind Farm near Lexington, said the Sunday breeze went smoothly. 

"She appears to be no different really," Fiske said of Untapable since she arrived at Churchill from Fair Grounds. "She's pretty professional and just goes about her business."

After she completes that business, Untapable is not much for greeting visitors.

"She doesn't really like people all that much," Fiske said. "When you go by, you almost never see her with her head out of the stall, if there are people around."

Fiske said that personality likely traces to Untapable's dam, grade II winner Fun House, by Prized. Also a Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred, Fun House won the 2004 Buena Vista Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park.

"Where the Tapits tend to be game-players, I think she got most of her nasty personality from her mother," Fiske said. "(Untapable) has never struck me as a horse who likes to play games with you; she just doesn't like you. Her mother was always cranky. She still is."

Since Untapable won last year's Pocahontas Stakes (gr. II), the Louisville track has added a massive video board that Asmussen believes the filly noticed when she acted up before Sunday's work. He said getting familiar with the track is all part of preparing for a race.

"When you get here to the Oaks and the Derby with all of our new TV screens, there's a lot to take in," Asmussen said. "You just want her to mentally be in a position that she can show her talent."

Asmussen said because Untapable grew a lot over the winter, time between starts is ideal. But he admits the Oaks can't come fast enough.

"She trained so well at the Fair Grounds and her races were just tremendous," Asmussen said. "With her, I think just trying to keep her on the ground and hold what we've got. I wouldn't have minded (the Oaks) being last week."

Asmussen saddled the Winchells' Summerly to victory in the 2005 Kentucky Oaks. While the trainer believes this year's Oaks race is deep in talent, he is hoping for a performance similar to Rachel Alexandra's Oaks win.

Rachel Alexandra won the 2009 Oaks for owners Michael Lauffer and Dolphus Morrison, her breeder. After that victory, she was purchased by Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick and transferred to Asmussen.

"Rachel's coming out party for the world was here in the Oaks for (trainer Hal) Wiggins," Asmussen said. "(Untapable) is amazingly talented. We're just hoping for a nice, smooth, clean trip. Rosie (Napravnik) has ridden her extremely well the last couple of times. We hope she's able to show who she is."

Off her Oaks win, Rachel Alexandra then won the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) in her first start for Asmussen on her way to earning Horse of the Year honors. But Asmussen doesn't see the Preakness as a possibility for Untapable because of the quick two-week turnaround.

"It's not great timing for her," Asmussen said. "We have a lot to worry about on Friday."

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