Hot Springs, AR (Friday, April 15, 2016) – Forever Unbridled vaulted up the ranks of the country’s top older and filly mare division with a resounding defeat of champion Untapable and four other talented horses in the $600,000 (G1) Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Friday.
Coming into the 1 1/16th mile race on the strength of two consecutive Grade 3 scores, she notched her first Grade 1 victory for trainer Dallas Stewart and owner/breeder Charles E. Fipke while joining her older full sister, Unbridled Forever, as a winner at the sport’s top level of competition.
Forever Unbridled was keyed up and so much of a handful that Stewart had trouble keeping under control in the infield saddling area. But once she settled in and broke cleanly from the gate, the 4-year-old filly was a pure professional.
Ridden confidently by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, she sat comfortably behind the pace as Untapable, the 4-5 favorite and a five-time Grade 1 winner who had Florent Geroux aboard, established pedestrian splits of :24, :48, 1:12.1 and 1:36.4. Streamline, sent off at 19-1, raced off Untapable’s flanks and took over on the far turn under Chris Landeros and then maintained her position in the stretch.
Streamline, who was competing in her first Grade 1 race, looked like the winner at the 16th pole, but the fast-closing Forever Unbridled kicked clear to pass her and draw off to win by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:43. Tara’s Tango, a multiple graded stakes winner sent from California by Jerry Hollendorfer and ridden by Rafael Bejarano, was another 1 1/4 lengths behind while Untapable was a head back in fourth.
“We got a nice position into the first turn once I got her to the outside,” said winning jockey John Velazquez, who won the 2015 Apple Blossom on Untapable. “She was in the bridle the whole way around. I wanted to put a little pressure on the horse who was second (Streamline) so she’d put a little pressure on the horse who was in front (Untapable). I know she’s a nice horse and we didn’t want to let them go too easy either. My horse was doing it easy. I didn’t have to ask her to do anything. By the time we came to the last turn I kind of let her out a little bit and she kind of got lost a little. I took my time and let her get engaged in the bridle again. When she got into the bridle in the lane, I showed her the whip and she responded right away.”
The win was Stewart’s second stakes win and first graded stakes win at Oaklawn, where he ran Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ division in the 1990s.
“It’s great to be here back at Oaklawn. Wayne was right here with me today,” said Stewart. “She’s a wonderful filly. We’ve got great hopes for her the rest of the year.”
Forever Unbridled and the 5yo Unbridled Forever are Fipke’s homebreds by Unbridled’s Song out of Lemons Forever, whom Stewart trained to a huge upset win in the (G1) Kentucky Oaks. Unbridled Forever gave Stewart his first Grade 1 win at Saratoga last August when she was the upset winner of the Ballerina.
He was understandably thrilled with Forever Unbridled’s performance.
“Her sister won a Grade 1. Her mom did it, too. But I think this is a really, really good horse,” he said. “She’s something special. Her last three races have been over three different tracks. That takes a special horse.”
Untapable, the unanimous 3-Year-Old Filly champion who came into the race off a runner-up finish in the (G2) Azeri Stakes March 19, has been a special horse as well. But she is winless in two starts this season.
“It’s disappointing. Very disappointing,” said trainer Steve Asmussen after the race. “There was no speed in the race at all. She’s a free-running horse. Twenty-four, forty-eight, not more. She didn’t win, but I don’t think the pace had anything to do with it.
Untapable is a Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred and after the race racing manager David Fiske said, “You kind of expect her to go on. I don’t know. Who knows? It’s inexplicable.”
Geroux, who rode Untapable in the Azeri, was equally perplexed, saying, “I made the lead and it wasn’t what I really wanted to do, but it is how the race unfolded. I tried to kick home from the other horses but for some reason I couldn’t hold them off in the end. I don’t know.”
Forever Unbridled, sent off at 4-1 by the on-track crowd of 18,500, returned $10.40, $5.40 and $4.80 as improved her record to 4-2-2 from 10 starts and upped her bankroll to $911,600 with the winner’s share of the purse.
Live racing returns tomorrow on the closing day of the 2016 meet with an 12-race card highlighted by the 80th running of the $1 million (G1) Arkansas Derby, which is the final major prep race for the Kentucky Derby May 7. Other stakes races on the Oaklawn card include the $150,000 Instant Racing Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, the $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes for 3-year-olds, and the $750,000 (G2) Oaklawn Handicap for older horses.
First post is 12:35 p.m. and the probable post for the Arkansas Derby is 6:18 p.m.
$600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap Quotes
Winning Owner Charles Fipke, owner and breeder, Forever Unbridled: “It was her day. There were some great horses in there also, so we were just lucky today.”
Winning Jockey John Velazquez, Forever Unbridled – “We got a nice position into the first turn once I got her to the outside. She was in the bridle the whole way around. I wanted to put a little pressure on the horse who was second (Streamline) so she’d put a little pressure on the horse who was in front (Untapable). I know she’s a nice horse and we didn’t want to let them go too easy either. My horse was doing it easy. I didn’t have to ask her to do anything. By the time we came to the last turn I kind of let her out a little bit and she kind of got lost a little. I took my time and let her get engaged in the bridle again. When she got into the bridle in the lane, I showed her the whip and she responded right away. She’s a filly that gets better and better with each start. I’m glad I got to ride her today.”
Winning Trainer Dallas Stewart: “It’s great to be back at Oaklawn. I spent a lot of time her working for Wayne (D. Wayne Lukas) and he was right here with me today. She ran great today and beat a bunch of great fillies. What can I say? Johnny Velazquez, Chuck Fipke, Forever Unbridled. It’s a great day and we’re glad to be here.”
“She’s a wonderful filly. We’ve got great hopes for the rest of the year. We just need to keep her sound and healthy. Her sister won a Grade I. Her mom did. But I really think this is a really, really good horse. She’s something special. Her last three races have been over three different race tracks. She won at Aqueduct, she won at Houston, she trained at the Fair Grounds, she ran here, she won here. That takes a special horse.”
Jockey Chris Landeros, second on Streamline – “She ran big. It was a beautiful run, great trip. She’s an awesome mare. I just hope I had 20 more like her to ride. Props to (trainer) Brian (Williamson) and his team.”
Trainer Brian Williamson, second with Streamline – “You can’t ask for more than that. I told (Chris Landeros) to let her bounce out of there. If you happen to find yourself on the lead, don’t worry about it. We’ve won on the lead before. It was nice to have the outside post, where you can clock everything inside of us. She’s a nice filly. About the quarter-pole, I knew we kind of had that other horse, Untapable. She ran great. Dallas Stewart’s filly is a nice horse.”
Jockey Rafael Bejarano, third on Tara’s Tango – “We had a good trip, but my horse was never confortable. My horse just kept jumping around.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen, fourth with favorite Untapable: “Disappointing. Very disappointing.”
(Asmussen has a saying that “You get paid for what you do, and you pay for what you do,” referring to the toll some races and racing can take on a horse. Asked if this might be the case, he said, “Possibly. It’s not a good race for her.”
(Was it the plan to be in front?) “There was no speed in the race at all. She’s a free-running horse: 24, 48, not more. She didn’t win, but I don’t think the pace had anything to do with it.”
(You would think she’d keep going) “Right, exactly.” He’ll see how she cools out, “Yes, and go from there.”
(How tough is it when she’s a champion, and you think she might have needed her race last time to knock off the cobwebs?) “Who knows, just disappointed she lost.”
David Fiske, racing manager for Winchell Thoroughbreds on that pace: “You kind of expect her to go on…. I don’t know. Who knows? Inexplicable.”
Jockey Florent Geroux, fourth with favorite Untapable – “I made the lead and it wasn’t what I really wanted to do, but it is how the race unfolded. I tried to kick home from the other horses but for some reason I couldn’t hold them off in the end. I don’t know.”