There are horses who always show up, and then there is the quietly consistent road warrior that is graded stakes winner Untrapped.
Over the course of his still young career, the 4-year-old son of Trappe Shot has shown up in the starting gate at eight different tracks. More often than not, he departs with a check for his connections to cash as he has only finished worse than fourth twice in 15 career starts, with one of those outings a 12th-place run in last year's first leg of the Triple Crown.
On his best day, he defeated both an established grade 1 winner and a future Breeders' Cup victor in the Oklahoma Derby (G3) last season. If Untrapped can channel that kind of form when he visits track No. 9, a second graded stakes victory could be his for the taking when he faces eight others in the $300,000 Pimlico Special Stakes (G3) May 18 at Pimlico Race Course.
"He's a talented horse who has kept very good company," trainer Steve Asmussen said of Untrapped. "He hasn't ducked anything ever. Heck, he beat Battle of Midway before Battle of Midway won the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) last year. He's just a battler."
Though he only has two wins to show for his efforts, Untrapped is indeed one who makes others work for their spoils. He was a steady force during last year's Triple Crown prep season, finishing in the top three in the Lecomte (G3), Risen Star (G2), and Rebel (G2) stakes. When he finally got over the hump in the Oklahoma Derby, he was able to settle just off the early pace before kicking on to defeat Battle of Midway by 1 3/4 lengths with grade 1 winner Girvin back in fifth.
Untrapped hasn't prevailed in five starts since but has, as usual, held his own during his four starts already this season. The dark bay colt was second to Hedge Fund in the March 17 Essex Handicap, and comes into the Pimlico Special off a third-place finish in the April 14 Oaklawn Handicap.
"I thought the timing from the last week at Oaklawn to Preakness week really suits him, and he has put in very good works here for the Pimlico Special," Asmussen said. "He's cashed some nice checks, but he is capable of the (Oklahoma Derby performance). When it goes his way or doesn't go their way, he can take advantage of it. I really like how he's trained since we've been here as well."
Owned by Michael Langford, Untrapped has earned $812,005.
Among the notable contenders slated to face Untrapped in the Pimlico Special is fellow graded stakes winner Irish War Cry, who is aiming to halt a six-race losing skid.
The Graham Motion-trained son of Curlin has gone winless since taking the 2017 Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G2) in April, and most recently struggled home sixth in the March 31 Gulfstream Park Hardacre Mile Stakes (G2). Motion said the chestnut colt exited that race with a case of the "thumps", an electrolyte imbalance the trainer believes also explains his disappointing finish in last year's Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2).
"We've cut back his Lasix dosage and I think that's helped with the thumps, and I'm hoping getting out of Florida with the cooler weather (will help)—although it's going to start getting warmer here in the next few weeks. Certainly in the morning the thumps have been very manageable," Motion said. "I've been very happy with his works. I just gave him an easy half this weekend because I felt like he had three pretty good stamina works and I just wanted to freshen him up.
"I would like to have this horse have the opportunity to show everyone what a good horse he can be because he's immensely talented."
In contrast to Irish War Cry's struggles, Stronach Stables' homebred Something Awesome enters the Pimlico Special on a three-race win streak, all in stakes, two of them graded. The 7-year-old Awesome Again gelding captured the seven-furlong Feb. 17 General George Stakes (G3) and recently scored a gutsy triumph in the $1.2 million Charles Town Classic (G2) April 21 going 1 1/8 miles.
"He's doing well. He came back good and the horse looks like he just likes to run. He came back and ate up everything, and was ready to go the next day," trainer Jose Corrales said. "We were thinking to run him in the Pimlico Special and hoped he would perform as well as he has done. He's not a horse that changes too much. You just have to do the same thing. If he can keep his fitness and the track is right for him that day, he will perform good."
Pimlico Race Course, Friday, May 18, 2018, Race 9
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Irish War Cry (NJ) Jose L. Ortiz 118 H. Graham Motion 3/1 2 2One Liner (KY) Luis Saez 118 Todd A. Pletcher 7/2 3 3Rated R Superstar (KY) Javier Castellano 120 Kenneth G. McPeek 8/1 4 4Discreet Lover (FL) Manuel Franco 118 Uriah St. Lewis 20/1 5 5Hedge Fund (KY) Mike E. Smith 122 Todd A. Pletcher 7/2 6 6Papa Zulu (KY) Emmanuel Esquivel 118 Kelly Rubley 30/1 7 7Afleet Willy (KY) Jomar Torres 118 Claudio A. Gonzalez 10/1 8 8Something Awesome (ON) Edgar S. Prado 124 Jose Corrales 5/1 9 9Untrapped (KY) Ricardo Santana, Jr. 118 Steven M. Asmussen 10/1
Pimlico Race Course, Friday, May 18, 2018, Race 9