Untapable gave Rosie Napravnik her second Kentucky Oaks win with their victory. (Photos by Eclipse Sportswire)
By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing
LOUISVILLE – Rosie Napravnik, who became the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks with aptly named Believe You Can two years ago, burnished her growing reputation when she and Untapable dominated the latest running of the Oaks by 4 ½ lengths on Friday at Churchill Downs.
Napravnik’s handling of Untapable from farthest outside in post 13 was as masterful as it was confident. But she gave all of the credit to a 3-year-old filly who continues to assert herself as the best of her class by far. She swept her three starts this year by a combined margin 21 ¾ lengths.
Napravnik said of the bay daughter of Tapit: “She is growing up, she is maturing and she is magnificent.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen is the subject of an ongoing investigation into the handling of his horses in a far-flung operation that annually ranks among the national leaders in victories and earnings. He delighted in a triumph that shed a positive light on his training ability and care.
“Under the circumstances, it meant a great deal,” he said. He saddles Tapiture, who is given an outside shot, in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
Asmussen added: “When she stuck that pretty face in front, it was just a wonderful feeling.”
Untapable needed only a handful of powerful strides to overcome the disadvantage of her post and place herself in perfect striking position, sitting fourth in the early going. According to Napravnik, the filly twitches her ears as if to ask for the cue to make her move. She blew past speedy My Miss Sophia, the runner-up, when she was set down to run, taking command near the top of the stretch and drawing off from there.
Photos by Eclipse Sportswire
Unbridled Forever was another six lengths back in third.
Untapable returned $4 for a $2 win wager. She covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.68.
On a day when females and fillies owned the stage, Napravnik and Untapable entered the winner’s circle to resounding cheers from the crowd of 113,071, many of them dressed in pink as part of an afternoon that celebrated cancer survivors and raised awareness for even more cancer research. It was the third-largest crowd in the 140-year history of the Oaks at Churchill, and Napravnik soaked in the fans’ approval.
“Having women and little girls in my corner is really inspiring,” she said.
Napravnik will try to make an enormous breakthrough on Saturday when she rides Louisiana Derby winner Vicar’s In Trouble in an attempt to become the first female jockey to win the Derby. The challenge will again be to break quickly as he leaves the starting gate closest to the rail.
“I really think Vicar’s In Trouble has a great shot,” she said.
UNTAPABLE AND NAPRAVNIK WITH THEIR BLANKET OF LILIES
In other stakes races that highlighted the Oaks undercard:
La Troienne Stakes (G1): On Fire Baby rebounded from a runner-up finish in this race last year to win by 2 ¾ lengths for Joe Johnson and push her earnings past the $1 million mark to $1,082,687. “I’ve always thought she was one of the top horses in the country, and hopefully she showed that,” said trainer Gary Hartlage.
Twin Spires (G3): Marchman, coming off a victory in the Shakertown at Keeneland, continued his emergence when he held off Undrafted by 1 ½ lengths. Marchman sat just off the pace set by Sum of the Parts. “I felt very confident in him. I squeezed on him and he went on by Sum of the Parts commandingly,” said jockey Robby Albarado. Undrafted is owned by Wes Welker of the Denver Broncos, a diminutive wide receiver who entered the NFL undrafted but emerged as a star.
Eight Belles (G3): Fiftyshadesofgold, second in the Fair Grounds Oaks in her previous start, wore down Milam in a torrid stretch duel by a half-length for jockey Mike Smith. In her previous start at Churchill Downs, she ruled the Debutante by eight lengths last June.
The Edgewood: A Little Bit Sassy ran down pacesetting Istanford by 1 ¼ lengths. Jockey Luis Saez credited her newfound willingness to sit off the pace. “I got her to relax and when I got in the stretch, she responded to me very well. I had so much horse,” Saez said.
The Alysheba (G2): Jockey Calvin Borel – known as “Bo-Rail” for his ability to save ground – did what he does best when he charged up the rail to edge Golden Ticket by one-half length on Moonshine Mullin. Heavily-favored Will Take Charge never contended despite desperate urging from Gary Stevens, who replaced Saez aboard the runner-up in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. Will Take Charge struggled home sixth in a field of eight.
For Equibase charts from Friday at Churchill Downs, click here.