06/29/2014 11:43AM

Watchmaker: Untapable not ready for the boys just yet


** I’m not going to get too hung up on Untapable receiving a pedestrian Beyer Speed Figure of only 94 for winning the Mother Goose at Belmont. I mean, how many more lengths did you want her to win by for her to post a faster final time? Wasn’t winning by 9 1/4 lengths enough? And I’m not going to make that big of a deal over the fact that behind Untapable, the 3-year-old filly division this year remains a hungry one. That isn’t Untapable’s fault.

But even a day later, I am surprised that the door was opened following the Mother Goose for Untapable possibly to face males July 27 in the Haskell at Monmouth. As a Twitter follower correctly posted to me Saturday afternoon, a start by Untapable against males in the Haskell makes sense because it would have absolutely no bearing on her status for a divisional championship, which looks to be just about a lock at this point. And if Untapable should win the Haskell, that win over males would go a long way toward bolstering her chances for Horse of the Year honors.

The thing is, apparently unlike a lot of other folks, I’ve always been a little skeptical of the whole “Untapable is the best 3-year-old of either sex” thing. In fact, I think she might have big trouble with a genuinely capable 3-year-old male.

Some think that Wildcat Red might be that male. Wildcat Red is Haskell-bound after a romp in Saturday’s Quality Road Stakes at Gulfstream over hopelessly outclassed opposition, not unlike Untapable’s romp in the Mother Goose. But while Wildcat Red put the bad memory of his unsuccessful attempt at the Kentucky Derby behind him, he still has things to prove to me. Yes, he was beaten only a neck when second in the Florida Derby but after getting away with setting a slow early pace. And it is true Wildcat Red won the Fountain of Youth, but he did so riding the crest of a speed-biased track.

Bayern is the one who should make Untapable’s connections think long and hard about going after the Haskell. Bayern was simply awesome winning the Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard with blinkers back on. He might even have been the most impressive horse to perform on that star-studded program. But it appears some people think that just because the Stephens was run at seven furlongs, Bayern has distance limitations, and I don’t understand where they get that.

Bayern was unsuccessful going long in the Preakness, but he was obliterated in the early stages, and that outing is a complete throw out. His previous route attempt came in the Arkansas Derby, in which he finished a tired third after setting the pace. But Bayern missed his prep for the Arkansas Derby because of a minor illness, and as a result, he was making his first start in two months that day. And he was probably rushed a bit to make that start as he desperately was seeking points to secure a berth in the Kentucky Derby. People seem to forget that in his second career start, his race before the Arkansas Derby, Bayern went two turns at Santa Anita, and all he did was win by 15 lengths. He’s a better horse now, and he’s by Offlee Wild, out of a Thunder Gulch mare. Why wouldn’t Bayern be equally effective going a route?

** Without wanting to take a thing away from Majestic Harbor, who registered by far the biggest victory of his career and did so in overwhelming fashion, I have to see validation in future races before I accept the form of the Gold Cup at Santa Anita. I realize the pace was very fast, but a fast pace doesn’t automatically mean a race has to devolve into a stagger fest. The final quarter of the Gold Cup was, according to the official chart, a slow 26.39 seconds, and yet somehow, Majestic Harbor was the only one going forward late (even that’s relative), and he somehow collected a 111 Beyer Speed Figure for his efforts.

Of course, the weary fourth-place finish from Game On Dude in the Gold Cup was as big, if not bigger story. Game On Dude certainly seemed to be undone by Fury Kapcori’s Quarter Horse approach Saturday. Still, it seemed hard to believe this was the same Game On Dude who was so impressive winning the Big Cap at the distance over the track less than four months ago. Game On Dude is 7, and while it is too early to suggest there are no more glory days ahead for him, all athletes, if they stick around long enough, have to deal with decline. Ask Derek Jeter.

But please, don’t tell me that what happened Saturday is some sort of proof that Game On Dude, is, and always was, a California fake. Geez, he’s finished first or second in 23 of 33 races, has earned more than $6.4 million, and most importantly, he has operated at a high level over a number of years. You might not be a fan, and that’s fine. But you can’t do what Game On Dude has done over time with only smoke and mirrors.

** Speaking of potential decline, that was an alarming no show by Sahara Sky in the Triple Bend. The Triple Bend seemed like a turning point race for Sahara Sky. His form was spotty this year, but with some excuses, and now he was back home at his favorite distance against a field he would have had for breakfast last year. He never got involved.

** Do you want to know why horseplayers get angry? Check out how the Firecracker Stakes at Churchill Downs was run. The whole world knew that Silver Max was by far the best horse in the Firecracker, even if he was coming off a near eight-month layoff. But Silver Max is a want-the-lead type. So is Firecracker entrant Free World. Free World’s races before Saturday when he didn’t have the early lead weren’t anywhere near the same quality as the races when he ambled right to the front. In other words, it looked as though Free World would take the starch out of Silver Max early, a not-insignificant point considering Silver Max was going to be a heavy favorite.

So what happened? Silver Max broke on the button and went right to the top. Free World didn’t break as sharply but was immediately taken well in hand. The Firecracker was over in the first 100 yards when it was clear that Free World was going to offer no early challenge whatsoever to Silver Max. Silver Max got away with fractions that were nothing for him and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Free World finished fifth.

Horseplayers get angry when horses are taken out of their games, throwing as critical a handicapping principle as pace right out the window.

** I was not a big believer in Riposte going into the New York Stakes. I thought Riposte lost a couple of races she shouldn’t have lost early in the year, and I thought her win last time out in the Sheepshead Bay was a function of her getting away with a very easy, very slow pace on off footing. But Riposte turned me around Saturday. I thought she was in trouble when she missed her break and had to run from off the pace, but Riposte still proved clearly best over a solid mare in Tannery.

** Parranda must be living right. In her first graded stakes win this year in the Suwannee River, she got away with a walking lead. In her second graded stakes win this year in the Wilshire, she rallied into a very fast, contested early pace. And in her third graded stakes win this year in Saturday’s Royal Heroine, Parranda fell into a dream trip when Dutchessa went up in the middle stages to bang heads with pacesetter Kathleen Rose. That softened Kathleen Rose up just enough for Parranda to beat her by a neck.

** Vicar’s in Trouble might be a mini Game On Dude in the respect that he did not appear at all at home rating just off the pace in the Iowa Derby. Vicar’s in Trouble wants to roll early.

John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
Question: When is the last time a "filly" won the Travers, if at all ?
DRFWatchmaker More than 1 year ago
A simple internet search will reveal it was Lady Rotha in 1915.
JDS0810 More than 1 year ago
Untapable is tested and proven at 1 1/8, Haskell is 1 1/4. Question is, does more distance benefit her?? My inclination is yes! Where is Tonalist going next?
DRFWatchmaker More than 1 year ago
The Haskell is 1 1/8 miles, not, as you said, 1 1/4 miles. Tonalist is pointing to the Jim Dandy.
Joey W More than 1 year ago
We won't know unless she tries. Do not think she would embarrass herself at all. Fact is she is miles better than the fillies that are out there.
Mark Kennedy More than 1 year ago
untappable in my opinion is ready to take on any of the 3 yrold boys
FESTUS ELROY More than 1 year ago
If Asmussen runs her against colts and god forbid she breaks down like Eight Belles,He'd be crucified.Take the easy money given to her while she matures.Later this year she'll have plenty of big game awaiting in the filly/mare division.
mike More than 1 year ago
Don't say you honestly think she would prevail over Ca Chrome?
Mark Kennedy More than 1 year ago
im curious mike You are touting wildcat red for the haskell as a reason UNTAPPABLE should not take on the boys and you dont even have him on your divisional top 10
DRFWatchmaker More than 1 year ago
I think you need to read it again. In no way, shape or form am I "touting" Wildcat Red. I made it very, very clear that he has much to prove to me.
L. More than 1 year ago
I agree. I want I want to see him win outside of Florida.
Lawrence MacSelwiney More than 1 year ago
The one thing that baffled me over the weekend is why Fury Kapcori had to be used that way? Don't get me wrong. I'm happy with the outcome as I boxed Clubhouse Ride and Majestic Harbor, but Fury Kapcori's best race, in my opinion is when he sat second and powered home. Its almost as if Hollendorfer wants to screw Baffert. It doesn't make sense. He takes Corey off and replaces him with Stevens and he still goes crazy on the lead. This horse doesn't need the lead. I was very happy for Sean McCarthy another hard working horseman who doesn't get much pub or credit. Majestic Harbor was training lights out and wants every bit of a mile and quarter or farther. As for the Beyer. Bad number. I thought Riposte looked awesome Saturday. It took a while for him to change lead, but when he did he was motoring What a dirty beat Parranda put on Kathleen Rose. I didn't think much of her prior to this race, but all this girl does is show up and run her eyeballs out every time.. If Kent doesn't make that ridiculous run at her, Parranda was never going to beat her. As for Sahara Sky. I heard after the Churchill Race that the horse had a stomach ailment. He also wore bandages for the first time in that race and then showed up Saturday without them. Huge red flag. Didn't even consider him. I had Cyclometer and I am still trying to recover.
BlindLuckk More than 1 year ago
While the race may have been slow, it is clear the other top Fillies in her class are dodging her. She could continue to run against 4 or 5 horses and crush them OR take on colts. I'm just a little surprised Mr Watchmaker that you think the former is the better option.
Jesse Hearin More than 1 year ago
Great topics as always. Seems to me they have four choices with Untapable and the only one that makes sense is to take on a relatively weak crop of three year old colts. Winning the CCA Oaks proves little at this point. Taking on the formidable older females (Beholder, Close Hatches, and Princess of Sylmar) is high risk and not enough reward. Older males are out of the question at this point particularly with Palace Malice in such stellar form. Why not try the Haskell or the Jim Dandy? Maybe Bayern has figured it out but more likely he is a Verrazano type (who runs huge figs when he is "on" and has it his way) but is less than a champion when pressed by a quality field going two turns. In Europe there would not even be a debate at this point, why the "girls can't do it" attitude over here?
Slew32A More than 1 year ago
Why the "girls can't do it" attitude over here? Because you always get some fool who's going to say "What if she breaks down"? Personally I'd take my time, the best fillies are around a lot longer the their male counterparts, why the need to see her run out of her own division but that's what I would think If I owned her.
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
A couple of thoughts...maybe opinions. There is no logical reason to run Untapable against males. She has proven she is the best filly of her generation. I, for one don't care if the other fillies are just ordinary in comparison. Let's not push her beyond her limits. Look what happened to Rachel Alexandra after a couple forays against males and older males. The added exertion on her part to win against stronger foes eventually took its toll on her. She was never the same as a four year old. My thoughts on Game On Dude...................I always like the "warrior" who seized the race at the start and proceeded to run the legs off the opposition. He was a gallant horse. He gave his best always even when he was beaten. Some may recall after his big victory the the "Big Cap", I said that was probably his last great hurrah. He's seven years old and only flesh and blood. Horses are not machines!!! Years ago I had mentioned that Sonny Hines' nice gray horse was on the decline. People chastised me for it. When Cigar was in his final year of campaigning, I mentioned To Jerry Bailey's father that Cigar looked like he had lost a step. He started to look vulnerable to me. People thought Jerry was "saving" the horse. That was not the case at all. It comes down to the fact everyone only has so many peak performances in them.......including racehorses.
sandyinmarin More than 1 year ago
Very well said Chuck Berger, I totally agree with your views regarding Rachel Alexandra. Another horse that doesn't want to be a racehorse (in my opinion) is Drill. I love Drill, but he's had enough. Let him be, turn him loose. There comes a time when a horse is no longer competitive, and/or doesn't want to race. I saw an 8 year old mare with 98 starts and maybe 18 wins be forced to compete in $2500 claiming races most of her life. She shattered her left hind during training and had to be put down. Also think about 98 shots of Lasix in 6 years. Not good. No green pasture for this horse. We all need to be reminded about the welfare of the horse, we are all they have and they depend on us.
Mark Kennedy More than 1 year ago
theres a very logical reason if she runs against the boys shes in no danger of losing any three yrold filly votes as we all know she will at least hit the board If she runs against the fillies and happens to have an off day then loses again in the distaff she could relive princess of sylmers hardache i say run in the haskell then the personal ensign and beldame then the distaff
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Good thing you're not managing her. She is beating up on a weak division. A fast, strong colt would handle her. Let alone Close Hatches, Princess of Sylmar or Beholder.
mike More than 1 year ago
Agree with you. If Mark managed her she would probably be run into the ground.
mike More than 1 year ago
Chuck, you aren't the only one. I stated on many blogs in RA's three yr old season that they would used her up. Also,Cigar I thought he lost a step. He's my fav besides Zenyatta. I've visited him for the past seven yrs and been present for the last three out of four years on his bday.
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
Well written. Couple points - would love to see Untapable take on some top flight colts - that's what makes horse racing so interesting. Regarding Vicar's in Trouble in the Iowa Derby to say the track was "sloppy" would be an understatement - more like a quagmire. Finally my new "guru" is Eddie "O" on NBS/SN picked two longshots "cold" in the races they covered at Santa Anita - great hockey announcer/color maybe a better handicapper.
lserpFL More than 1 year ago
its about time NBC brought in some decent racing commentary & rid themselves of Bailey & Moss go Eddie!