04/30/2014 10:14AM

Kentucky Oaks: Asmussen likes his chances with Untapable

Debra A. Roma
Untapable, trained by Steve Asmussen (right), is the 4-5 morning-line favorite heading into Friday's Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Steve Asmussen was a mere spectator five years ago at Churchill Downs when Rachel Alexandra set a Kentucky Oaks record by winning the filly classic by 20 lengths.

“That’s the day she made the transition from a horse with a lot of ability to a true superstar,” Asmussen said. “That was her coming-out party.”

Shortly after the Oaks and a private sale, Asmussen was hired on as the trainer of Rachel Alexandra, who would go on to become the Horse of the Year for 2009. This history lesson has some similarities to what might unfold here Friday, when Asmussen puts a saddle on the heavily favored Untapable for the 140th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Oaks.

Untapable, bred and owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, is an odds-on morning-line favorite for the 1 1/8-mile Oaks, the anchor event on a sensational 12-race card that starts at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. Untapable is held in such high regard mostly because of recent performances in New Orleans, where she easily won the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra and Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks.

“Obviously, she’s not at the same level Rachel made it to,” Asmussen said, “but you’d have to say the stage is set for something good to happen.”

With Rosie Napravnik riding, Untapable will break from the outside gate in a field of 13 3-year-old fillies in the Oaks, and Asmussen said the post might be more of an advantage than not.

“There’s enough of a run to the first turn for Rosie to use the filly’s speed to get position,” Asmussen said. “Plus, there’s less of a chance to find trouble with another horse pressuring you from the outside. I’m more than good with that post.”

Napravnik, a 26-year-old New Jersey native who has been a leading jockey in Maryland, Louisiana, and Kentucky, made history two years ago aboard Believe You Can when she became the first woman jockey to win the Oaks. She has been aboard Untapable in all but one of the filly’s six career starts, with the Fair Grounds Oaks being most noteworthy for this compelling reason: Five of the last 10 Kentucky Oaks winners have exited that race, a remarkable span that also includes one year (2006) when Fair Grounds was shuttered.

Beyond Untapable, the balance of the Oaks field appears very well matched, with Ria Antonia, Rosalind, Fashion Plate, and My Miss Sophia being the secondary favorites.

Ria Antonia (post 2, Mike Smith), the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies by disqualification six months ago, rebounded from a disappointing effort in the Rachel Alexandra to finish a good second as the favorite in her most recent race, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks.

Rosalind (post 4, Joel Rosario), a dead-heat winner of the Grade 1 Ashland last out, has been a consistent and versatile filly and is “coming into this about as good as I can get her,” trainer Ken McPeek said.

Fashion Plate (post 7, Gary Stevens) figures to have her name called quite a bit by new Churchill announcer Larry Collmus, given her penchant for flashing big speed, which she used in sweeping back-to-back Grade 1 races, the Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks.

My Miss Sophia (post 11, Javier Castellano) also has a terrific turn of foot and will be trying to give Todd Pletcher his fourth Oaks victory. Pletcher also will send out longshot Got Lucky (post 12, John Velazquez).

The rest of the Oaks lineup is Please Explain, Sugar Shock, Thank You Marylou, Kiss Moon, Aurelia’s Belle, Unbridled Forever, and Empress of Midway.

The Oaks goes as the 11th of 12 races and follows five other stakes: the Grade 1 La Troienne (race 5), the Grade 3 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (race 6), the Grade 3 Eight Belles (race 8), the Edgewood (race 9), and the Grade 2 Alysheba (race 10).

The Oaks is part of a three-hour broadcast on NBC Sports Network that starts at 3 p.m., with post time set for 5:49. The race starts a pair of two-day wagers, the $1 Oaks-Derby double and the 50-cent Oaks-Woodford-Derby pick three.

An ontrack crowd of more than 100,000 is expected to enjoy Oaks Day under partly cloudy skies and a high temperature of 63.

The Oaks is as old as the Kentucky Derby, having first been run in 1875, when Vinaigrette was the winner. The race is a perennial factor in divisional honors, with recent champions Ashado (2004), Rags to Riches (2007), Proud Spell (2008), and Rachel Alexandra having won this race.

islamremon53 More than 1 year ago
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kingsailor2 More than 1 year ago
Mr. Asmussen's interview with NBC sports network just now was very impressive. Great job! He really met the accusations against him with aplomb. Bravo to Jerry Bailey also. And of course, the Jockey Club people look like the kind of people they always look like--no surprises there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can someone please stop NBC from broadcasting a sport that they have NO IDEA how to present. Blimp angles suck. Rabbit eye view angles suck. And NO ONE is tuning in to the broadcast to listen to two OLYMPIC FIGURE SKATERS TALK FASHION. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Robynrokn More than 1 year ago
Other networks aren't dumb enough to pay what NBC pays for these races. So you will keep getting your fashion shows and celebrity hangover shots.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The other girl from the olympics picked Fashion Plate. Sa-prize!
Robynrokn More than 1 year ago
Hope you're all noting that the Pletchers and the Aqueduct horses today aren't showing much.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
I was going to comment on that. Track is playing a little "hard fast" to my peeps..
Robynrokn More than 1 year ago
And the paces have been moderate, lot of 24s first quarters and 48s. Good luck with WS if that happens tomorrow, not.
Rickey Cooper More than 1 year ago
What will a $100 dollar pk 3 oaks, woodford, derby pay 13,1, 5.
Kevin Savage More than 1 year ago
nothing, because none of those nags will win
Hail No More than 1 year ago
What odds do you make your first two picks? If they pay more than 2.80, will it still be worth the wager, to you?
Rickey Cooper More than 1 year ago
If they go off at their morning line odds that would be 1134 dollars for the original 100 dollars but that's only 10 to 1.I might be better off playing the pk.3.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Right, but that will be the most punched ticket on the day, and the ML might not be a good barometer for the actual payouts,. Good luck on whatever you decide...
Paul More than 1 year ago
15 for a dollar if you're lucky. Horrible bet. First horse to win from post 13 in 13 yrs today, Dan running in an unusual for him large field and chrome faces other speeds, doesn't break well, hasn't been able to rate two lengths off lead, faces strong stalkers and closers, would be first ca bred to win in 50 years and never ran outside ca. I'd demand more money on those odds against history.
Parker Kipsy More than 1 year ago
I hope you bet it!
Parker Kipsy More than 1 year ago
Russell Powell More than 1 year ago
Kiss Moon romps
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
My calculations have Empress of Midway as the one to beat.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do tell ...
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
Here it is folks. Untapable is BY far the fastest horse. Her Ragozins are off the charts. However, this is why I will play against. TOO fast and ONLY at Fair Grounds. Her debut maiden breaker and Pochahontas were very slow over this track. Ria Antonia hasn't been close to fast enough for this race. Her BC race was the fastest of her life. With that, Fashion Plate's speed is also exposed. My pick is #3 Sugar Shock She is SHARP. She should have first crack at the lead. Her form is improving race after race. She has shown she has the versatility to get to the lead quickly from even far out.
Greg Scellin More than 1 year ago
Good strategy... Play against a horse because its TOO FAST. WTF. Please set up a wagering account with me. I will book every bet you every make!!!!
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Yea I see something off the pace Got Lucky or Rosalind.