03/14/2015 5:53PM

Gold Medal Dancer holds off Untapable to win Azeri

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Gold Medal Dancer wins the Azeri Stakes by a half-length Saturday at Oaklawn Park.

Everything seemed to be going as it should Saturday in the Grade 2 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park until Gold Medal Dancer did the unexpected.

Jockey John Velazquez and the 1-9 favorite Untapable tracked front-running Gold Medal Dancer through pedestrian fractions of 24.66 and 48.98 seconds over the “good,” sealed track. They moved up outside Gold Medal Dancer on the far turn, and the two horses passed the quarter pole as a team with Velazquez confidently handling Untapable.

That’s as close as Untapable ever got. Gold Medal Dancer dug in under jockey Luis Quinonez and eased away through the final furlong to win by a half-length.

The win was the first in a graded stakes for Gold Medal Dancer, a 5-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro bred and owned by the Pin Oak Stud of Josephine Abercrombie and trained by Donnie Von Hemel.

“It looked like we had a chance to get out and control the race, and Luis did a great job,” Von Hemel said after the race. He indicated that Gold Medal Dancer now would be pointed to the Grade 1, $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 10.

Untapable came into the Azeri with six wins in her last seven starts, including the Breeders’ Cup Distaff over older rivals last October. Untapable’s one loss last season came to the eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern in the Haskell Invitational. She was voted the champion 3-year-old filly of 2014.

The Azeri was her first race since the Breeders’ Cup, and it did not come under the best conditions with the track wet after rain Thursday and Friday.

“We were a little concerned, not getting a chance to come up and breeze over the racetrack because of the weather,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “The going's kind of heavy, and obviously it's a concern off the layoff.”

Asmussen said Untapable would remain at Oaklawn to train for a short while and that the Apple Blossom was not out of the question for her.

“If she comes out of it well, I think there's a tremendous amount of reasons for her to move forward,” Asmussen said.

Mufajaah finished third in the Azeri, 2 1/2 lengths behind Untapable. Mufajaah dropped far off the early pace and launched a three-wide move on the far turn but could not gain on the top pair in the final furlong.

Gold Medal Dancer paid $18.80 as the third choice in the five-horse field. She was timed in 1:45.92 after fractions of 1:13.85 and 1:39.37.

Gold Medal Dancer now has won 7 of 16 career starts and $529,000.

Trainer Doug Anderson scratched Sugar Shock from the Azeri because he did not want to run her over a wet track, leaving a field of five. There was no show wagering on the race.

– additional reporting by Nicole Russo