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Kentucky Oaks Preview -- Untapable tough to deny in Oaks

| Brisnet Editorial | 05/01/2014 #
  • Untapable romps in Fair Grounds Oaks (Lou Hodges Jr./Hodges Photography)

Thirteen fillies will contest Friday’s $1 million Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs and favoritism runs through Untapable, an overwhelming 4-5 choice on the morning line. She brings outstanding form into the 1 1/8-mile race and the bay filly will break from the far outside post with regular rider Rosie Napravnik.

NBCSN will televise the Kentucky Oaks from 5-6 p.m. (ET).

Here is a brief look at the contenders in post position order (morning line odds included):

  1. Please Explain (50-1) – Will attempt to capitalize upon an expected hot pace but hasn’t run fast enough in recent races to think she can contend.

  2. Ria Antonia (10-1) – Placed first via disqualification in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, she was no match for Untapable in her first start this year but was then transferred to two-time Oaks winner Bob Baffert and recorded a late-running second in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks. Could continue to move forward with a better pace set-up expected Friday.

  3. Sugar Shock (12-1) – Speedy filly led all the way in the Fantasy at Oaklawn last out and has finished first in four consecutive starts (disqualified once for interference). Steps up to face deeper competition and figures to face stiff pressure up front.

  4. Rosalind (8-1) – Late runner appears to be rounding into top condition for Kenny McPeek, rallying boldly to dead-heat for the win in the Grade 1 Ashland last time, is training forwardly according to reports. She’s one to consider from off the pace.

  5. Thank You Marylou (30-1) – Wasn’t a serious factor finishing third on Polytrack last time and has class concerns at this level. But chestnut filly posted a sharp score on dirt two starts back at Gulfstream Park and packs a decent finishing kick. Some appeal for the bottom of the exotics at long odds.

  6. Kiss Moon (30-1) – Exits an improved runner-up effort in the Fantasy and shows a bullet work at Churchill Downs in preparation, but her lower BRIS Speed ratings offer little encouragement that she can be competitive here.

  7. Fashion Plate (6-1) – Respect her form this year – California-based filly has won three straight including a pair of Grade 1 tallies – and jockey Gary Stevens is as skilled as they come aboard speed horses. But she’s bred for shorter distances and tough to envision her stealing the race on the front end given the presence of other speed.

  8. Aurelia’s Belle (50-1) – Her morning-line odds are too high – she ran well when placing in three consecutive graded stakes at Gulfstream earlier this year and exits a nice Grade 3 win. Bred to relish the added ground in the Oaks, the bay filly’s Speed numbers are a little light but she could still offer a decent run from off the pace.

  9. Unbridled Forever (12-1) – Out of 2006 Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever, filly opened the year with a good-looking stakes win at Fair Grounds before recording a well-beaten third to Untapable. Figured to be a little short following a two-month freshening last time and believe she’s capable of much better on Friday. Like the turn of foot she displayed in her wins.

  10. Empress of Midway (50-1) – A maiden winner two starts back at Santa Anita, she wound up a non-threatening second in the Sunland Park Oaks last time and faces a severe class check in this spot. Probably best to look for more down the road from her.

  11. My Miss Sophia (8-1) – Speedy filly recorded a sharp 7 ¼-length score in the Grade 2 Gazelle last time and rates as a talented prospect for three-time Oaks winner Todd Pletcher. But she did have everything her own way on the front end last time and is light on experience with only three starts, making a belated career debut Feb. 9. Could get caught chasing a fast pace from outside post.

  12. Got Lucky (20-1) – She’s finished second in four of five starts and confirmed closer could receive a perfect set-up to make another late impact. Her Speed ratings are discouraging – a career-best 90 number doesn’t figure to get it done in this spot – but won’t dismiss her chances for a minor award.

  13. Untapable (4-5) – Clearly the one to beat, she’s developed into a dominant presence in this division.

Top Pick

Untapable won her first two starts at Churchill Downs, including the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes last September, so she has an affinity for the track. Her unplaced finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies can’t be counted against her – she experienced serious trouble that afternoon – but she didn’t look like a star when concluding 2013 with a non-threatening third in the Hollywood Starlet in early December.

In fact, Untapable’s two-year-old form is similar to Rachel Alexandra, another solid performer who wasn’t special yet as a juvenile. Rachel Alexandra really blossomed at age three, posting easy stakes wins at Fair Grounds and Oaklawn Park, and many felt that she should’ve competed in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, which was won by 50-1 longshot Mine That Bird.

Instead, she captured the Kentucky Oaks by 20 ¼ lengths.

Untapable will be facing a deeper Oaks field than Rachel Alexandra did, but the aura surrounding the talented performer is similar. She came back better than ever when opening 2014 in the Feb. 22 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds, recording a 9 ½-length victory, and came back one month later to score by a resounding 7 ¾-length margin in the Fair Grounds Oaks, netting a whopping 107 Speed rating for the white-washing of foes.

That 107 Speed rating is better than any number earned by the horses in the Kentucky Derby and many feel that Untapable would be competitive, with a legitimate chance to win, if she was running a day later in the Run for the Roses.

I won’t go against the classy filly and there is enough distance before the first turn to overcome the bad post, with her jockey cutting dropping in behind the early leaders to save some ground into the bend. Untapable will launch her move on the far turn and should prove best down the Churchill Downs stretch.

Next in Order of Preference

Unbridled Forever broke her maiden in impressive fashion at Churchill Downs in late November, registering a 100 Speed rating for the 5 ¼-length decision, and carried that form when opening the year with a comfortable stakes victory at Fair Grounds. She was forced to race closer than preferred last time due to a slow pace, compromising her finishing kick, and that race served as only a tightener for the main event. Shows a five-furlong bullet work (fastest of 21 at distance) in preparation and should be rolling late under Shaun Bridgmohan.

Aurelia’s Belle could play a part at long odds. The improving miss has really come on since stretching out to two turns in late February and the added distance, as well as a hot and contested pace up front, should favor the well-bred filly.

Rosalind merits consideration for the bottom of any exotic wagers. Chestnut filly appears to finding her best form presently, registering her first triple-digit Speed rating last time, and she gets part often even if she doesn’t win. Won’t be surprised to see her come charging late.

Ria Antonia has made several nice appearances on the track training for the Kentucky Oaks and can’t dismiss the potential for further improvement second time out for Baffert. But filly has finished first only once in her career, a six-furlong race on Polytrack, and her inconsistency is a concern against these rivals.

Got Lucky hasn’t come close to winning her last two stakes attempts, finishing at least seven lengths back both times, but have to respect the fact she’s never been worse than second in five career outings. Late runner is another who could possibly factor into equation.

Wagering Strategy

Untapable is a single for the Oaks-Derby daily double or any other multi-race wagers. She won’t offer much value in the win pools at her 4-5 morning line odds, but we can hope that she drifts up a little in price by post time.

I will recommend straight exactas with Untapable over Unbridled Forever, Aurelia’s Belle and Rosalind, and will add Ria Antonia and Got Lucky underneath to any trifecta or superfecta bets.

Enjoy the Oaks!

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