Tomorrow’s (5/2) Kentucky Oaks Grade I Stakes for 3 yo fillies at Churchill Downs (CD) at first glance seems a mortal lock for Untapable. Her last 2 Beyer figures (106, 100) are higher than any of the other horses have ever run. Untapable is 2 for 2 at CD, including winning a Grade 2 stakes last September. Jockey Rosie Napravnik has been aboard for all 4 Untapable wins, so is very familiar with the horse.
However, upon closer inspection, there are some red flags. Untapable’s trainer, Steve Asmussen, has recently been dogged by allegations of using illegal drugs on his horses. Those big Beyer figures were also earned at the Fairgrounds, which must have a slower type racing surface, because the actual winning times of the last two races (both 1 1/16) were 1:43.6 & 1:43, good times but times that are not beyond the capabilities of several contenders in the field. The 1 1/16 running time of 1:42.8 turned in by Fashion Plate to win the SA Oaks is one example, as is the 1:43.2 put up by Rosiland to win the Ashland at Keenland April 5 on an artificial surface. Unbridled Forever possesses a Beyer speed figure 15 points better than Untapable’s best at CD.
The early fractions in the Oaks figure to be very fast, with Sugar Shock, Fashion Plate, Empress of Midway & My Miss Sophia all in the early mix. Untapable will need to run faster than the :48 or :48.2 half she ran in her last two, to stay in her preferred 1-3 lengths off the early pace. If she does, will she have enough left in the stretch? Bob Baffert recently took over the conditioning of Ria Antonia who has turned in 3 excellent works for this race & veteran hall of fame jockey Mike Smith is a master of pace in route races. Rosiland is an excellent closer who will appreciate the added distance the 1 1/8 Kentucky Oaks offers. My Miss Sophia is set for a big effort, looking very impressive in her last 2 outings, has a great jockey & a trainer that wins a good percentage of his graded stakes entries.
Untapable has looked unbeatably impressive, so I can’t blame you if you go with Untapable. Sometimes it pays to be a master of the obvious & Untapable with those last two 100+ Beyers would appear to be the obvious choice.
However impressive Untapable has looked, she does need to overcome the outside post, and at the very short price she’s likely to command at post time, you might want to consider trying to beat her, or play some exotic combinations to make some $.
For what it’s worth, I’ll try for the upset & key My Miss Sophia in my exotic bets. If she goes off at her 8-1 morning line odds, she will be a juicy win price.
Good luck at the races!
– Ron Classen, firstname.lastname@example.org