01/06/2015 1:41PM

2014 Eclipse Awards: Untapable

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Emily Shields

Looking back with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, 4-1 was quite possibly the overlay of the year when Eclipse Award finalist Untapable made her 3-year-old debut in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes.

The race was expected to be highly competitive, but in a portent of what was to come, Untapable was simply untouchable and won off as Rosie Napravnik pleased at better than 4-1, earning the first of her four triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures.

“We think she is better than she was last year,” trainer Steve Asmussen said in what was a finalist for understatement of the year.

Five weeks later, everyone wanted a piece of the action on Ron Winchell’s homebred Tapit filly in the Fair Grounds Oaks, and Untapable was favored at odds of 1-2. She did not disappoint, winning off by nearly eight lengths over Fiftyshadesofgold, a nice filly in her own right who had won three of her first four starts by better than 20 lengths combined.

“You might have seen the best filly in the world out there,” said a marveled Mike Smith, who rode the runner-up.

That theory was put to the test at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Oaks. Despite breaking from the outside post, Untapable posted another lopsided victory and earned a sparkling 107 Beyer, one point lower than Rachel Alexandra’s figure in the same race five years earlier.

“She lived up to the billing,” Asmussen said. “Rachel Alexandra’s coming-out party was the Kentucky Oaks, and afterward she was being compared to Ruffian. And now that people are asking me to compare Untapable to Rachel Alexandra is a great sign.”

Eight weeks after the Oaks, Untapable returned in the Mother Goose and overcame some early trouble to win like a 1-20 shot should, described by track announcer Tom Durkin as “four-legged poetry in motion.”

In a bold move, Untapable then bypassed easy pickings in her own division and attempted to follow in the footsteps of Rachel Alexandra against males in the Haskell Invitational. Although she encountered trouble early in the race, she was still beaten less than two lengths for second behind runaway winner Bayern, who would go on to take the Pennsylvania Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“I think a lot of little things added up to it not being her day,” Asmussen said. “She didn’t get away well at all and was never in position to win the race the way the track was playing.”

Untapable was freshened through the rest of the summer and returned in the Cotillion, where she once again broke from the outside post. Racing wide over a rail-favoring surface, she finished determinedly to beat three-time Grade 1 winner Sweet Reason by a length.

A series of stellar workouts followed, and Untapable was peaking for her first assignment against older rivals in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. She drew an outside post yet again, and once more she overcame a loss of ground to win decisively under Napravnik, who announced in the winner’s circle that she was expecting her first child with her husband, trainer Joe Sharp, and was retiring at the end of Breeders’ Cup weekend.

“This filly has been very special to me, and it was a very special way to go out,” she said. “I just couldn’t resist because they asked me how much it meant to me.”

After getting a well-earned holiday at her owner’s Corinthia Farm in Kentucky, Untapable returned to Fair Grounds in December to begin preparing for a 4-year-old campaign.

“Obviously, we want to get Untapable back to the Breeders’ Cup to defend her title,” Asmussen said.