Hot Springs, Ark. (Thursday, April 14, 2016) – Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Untapable is the 6-5 program favorite for Friday’s $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1), a 1 1/16-mile event that headlines a 10-race card on Oaklawn’s penultimate program of the meeting. Probable post time for the 52nd Apple Blossom, among the country’s most prestigious events for older fillies and mares, is 5:10 p.m. (Central).
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Untapable, an Eclipse Award winner as the country’s champion 3-year-old filly of 2014, finished second, beaten a neck, in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 19 at Oaklawn, the final major local prep for the Apple Blossom. She also finished second in last year’s Azeri before winning the Apple Blossom.
In Friday’s projected field of six, Untapable is scheduled to break from post 4 under Florent Geroux and carry top weight of 120 pounds. Geroux rode Untapable for the first time in the Azeri, when the champion couldn’t hold a clear lead in midstretch after being keen early.
Asmussen, assured of his seventh Oaklawn training title, said he believes Geroux will benefit from have ridden Untapable in the Azeri.
“Her eagerness to run is an issue,” Asmussen said. “That’s why I chose Florent to ride her because she is anything but easy to get along with. I think he got a lot out of his first ride on her. You can explain what she’s like and you discuss what she’s like when you work her in the morning. But, in the afternoon, that’s the only way can get a true read of what you’re going to deal with.”
Untapable has a 9-5-2 record from 18 career starts and earnings of $3,886,725 for Ron and Joan Winchell, who also bred the 5-year-old daughter of Tapit.
Also returning from the Azeri are Call Pat, Streamline and Theogony, who finished first, third and fourth, respectively.
Call Pat, trying to give trainer Brad Cox his first Grade I victory, also won the $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) Feb. 14 at Oaklawn in her 2016 debut. Regular rider Joe Rocco Jr. has the mount on the late-running Call Pat, who is scheduled to break from the rail and carry 119 pounds.
“The post doesn’t mean a whole lot with her,” Cox said. “Probably, anything, inside is better. Rocco knows how to do his thing. There’s no instructions. He knows the drill. If they come back, and she comes running, she’ll make it interesting. That’s pretty much the way it is.”
Streamline won the $100,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 17 at Oaklawn before running second in the Bayakoa and third, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the Azeri.
Trainer Brian Williamson has given the call again to Chris Landeros. Streamline is scheduled to break from post 6 and carry 115 pounds.
“Breaking from the outside, we’ve got a little better shot to get better position,” Williamson said. “It seems like we’ve been in traffic all three races, really, here.”
Tara’s Tango and Forever Unbridled are the new shooters.
Tara’s Tango exits a one-length victory in the $500,000 Santa Margarita Stakes March 19 at Santa Anita for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who has given the mount to Rafael Bejarano.
Forever Unbridled will be making her first start since winning the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic (G3) Jan. 30 at Sam Houston Race Park.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez is scheduled to ride Forever Unbridled for trainer Dallas Stewart. He won the 2015 Apple Blossom aboard Untapable.
Ricardo Santana Jr. assured of his fourth consecutive Oaklawn riding title, has the return call on Theogony for trainer Mark Casse. She beaten a length in the Azeri.
Lightly raced Counterforce is the 2-1 program favorite for the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters Friday afternoon at Oaklawn. Probable post time for the Bachelor, which goes as race 7, is 4:14 p.m. (Central).
Counterforce, a son of Smart Strike, will be making his third career start for trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Winchell Thoroughbreds (Ron and Joan Winchell) in the Bachelor. To be ridden by Florent Geroux, he broke his maiden March 5 before running second in a first-level allowance sprint March 25. Both races were at Oaklawn.
Also entered in the 6-furlong Bachelor are Will Munnings, I Will Score, Force It, Titanium Point, Texas Chrome and Morning Fire.
Will Munnings won the $100,000 Gazebo Stakes March 26 at Oaklawn for trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs.
I Will Score and multiple stakes winner Morning Fire (both 5-2 in the program) invade from Southern California and Florida, respectively.