04/10/2015 7:59PM

Untapable delivers in Apple Blossom Handicap

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Untapable, with jockey John Velazquez aboard, gets her first win of the year in the Apple Blossom Handicap on Friday.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Ron Winchell felt a good deal of pressure, for the sake of Untapable’s many backers, he said, to see his champion return to the winner’s circle Friday at Oaklawn Park. The anxiety started to melt away as Untapable and jockey John Velazquez moved into the final turn of the Grade 1, $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap.

“Her ears were pricked, and Johnny was sitting on her pretty chilly, and I was like, ‘Okay,’ ” Winchell said. “I was feeling good.”

Untapable continued her momentum to the wire to win the Apple Blossom by 2 1/2 lengths over Diva’s Diamond. It was another neck back to Gold Medal Dancer in third. 

The Apple Blossom is one of the most important filly-and-mare races on the calendar. Untapable was the 1-5 favorite and was seeking her first win of the year after finishing second by a half-length in last month’s Grade 2, $300,000 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn, a race in which she was also 1-5.

“I was just glad she was able to redeem herself,” Winchell said. “Everybody is expecting her to win, and you kind of keep everybody happy that supports her.”

For Winchell, the satisfaction of winning the Apple Blossom goes much deeper. Untapable, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2014, is a homebred by his family’s leading stallion Tapit.

“This is the reason you’re in this business,” he said, “especially to breed one.”

Winchell noted that Untapable’s female family goes back for generations in the Winchell program. Her dam, Fun House, was a Grade 2 winner, and her third dam, Carols Christmas, produced the family’s Arkansas Derby winner, Olympio.

“And obviously Tapit makes it that much sweeter,” Winchell said of the horse who won the Wood Memorial for the Winchells.

Untapable ($2.40) broke well in the Apple Blossom and settled in fourth as Sugar Shock soared to the front and took the field through an opening quarter in 23.90 seconds and a half-mile in 48.26. Untapable advanced four wide into the final turn as Pearl Turn took over through six furlongs in 1:12.05.

Untapable continued three wide around the turn, hit the front soon afterward, and went about her business to win under a hand ride, covering the 1 1/16 miles on a track rated fast in 1:42.96.

Steve Asmussen, who trains Untapable, said he was pleased to see her settle off the pace after some of the sharp works she had turned in for the Apple Blossom.

“I thought Johnny did a great job with her into the first turn,” he said. “Once they lined out down the backside, I thought she was really in a commanding position and ran extremely well from there.”

Winchell said the next move with Untapable is to be determined, but that a defense of her title in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff is the ultimate goal of 2015.

Untapable earned $360,000 for the win in the Apple Blossom. It was the fifth Grade 1 victory for the filly, whose other chief accomplishments include the Kentucky Oaks. Untapable has now won 9 of 13 starts and $3,416,725.

Untapable was one of two champions who won within minutes of each other Friday, with Beholder having success in a stakes at Santa Anita.