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Fair Grounds Preview & FREE Picks | Untapable Stakes 2023: Alpine Star, West Omaha Give Cox 1-2 Punch
Alpine Princess (NYRA)

Fair Grounds Preview & FREE Picks | Untapable Stakes 2023: Alpine Star, West Omaha Give Cox 1-2 Punch

Aaron previews the 2023 Untapable Stakes from Fair Grounds, then gives his top picks from this 2024 Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep race.

Trainer Brad Cox entered Alpine Star & West Omaha as he attempts to win his 1st edition of this race, but 4 other fillies stand in their way. Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The press release:

Off a convincing four-length maiden breaker over seven furlongs last out at Churchill Downs, Gary and Mary West’s West Omaha will look to prove her merits over a route of ground against five rivals in Saturday’s Untapable Stakes at Fair Grounds. In addition to the $100,000 purse, the Untapable will offer 2-year-old fillies, soon to be three, 10-5-3-2-1 points on the Road to the Longines Kentucky Oaks. 

With a post time of 4 p.m. CT, the Untapable is scheduled as the 9th race on Saturday’s 12-race “Road to the Derby Kickoff Day” Fair Grounds card. The program also features the Gun Runner, a points race on the road to the Kentucky Derby 150 presented by Woodford Reserve, and six other stakes. First post at Fair Grounds is noon CT.  

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Installed as Mike Diliberto’s lukewarm 5-2 morning line favorite, West Omaha ran into all sorts of trouble in her career debut on September 21 at Churchill. Losing several lengths when crowded at the start, the homebred daughter of West Coast raced in the clear near the back of the pack early on.

Five-wide off the far turn, the Brad Cox-trainee rallied off heels and finished strongly to be third (placed 2nd following DQ of the winner), ¾ of a length. Over the same seven-furlong trip in her next start, West Omaha enjoyed a much cleaner start. She made the lead, but despite being pressured every step of the way, she drew off in the end to win by four convincing lengths. 

“I think she’ll stretch out based on her pedigree,” Cox said. “And physically she looks able to handle two turns. We like her. She had a good work this past weekend. Hopefully she can get a good trip.”

With Joel Rosario in the saddle, West Omaha will break from post 6.

Unlike her Cox-trained stablemate West Omaha, Full of Run Racing & Madaket Stable’s Alpine Princess already has a two-turn win on her resume.

Third in advance of a maiden win in a pair of Saratoga sprints this summer, the daughter of Classic Empire stretched out for the first time in the Alcibiades (G1) at Keeneland. Six-wide on the first turn and four-deep on the backstretch, she would finish a distant seventh of eight. 

“She reared up in the gate prior to the start which I think threw her off her game a little bit (in the Alcibiades),” Cox said. “She didn’t break as well as we thought she would the first time going two turns. That was something we had never seen from her and have not seen since. Hopefully she can get a clean trip from the one hole.”

Dropped back down for her subsequent start at Churchill on November 26, Alpine Princess broke from the rail and raced from the pocket on the backstretch. Held up late on the far turn, she split horses at the top of the stretch and proved two lengths better than fellow Untapable starter Sistina Chapel. 

“She rebounded after we gave her around seven weeks between her runs,” Cox said. “I thought she responded really well. She’s always been a really good workhorse, that’s a big reason why we took her to Saratoga over the summer. We liked her first time out and she didn’t get away well. She finished up well and was able to get the job done in her second start.”

At the co-second choice at 3-1 in the morning line, Alpine Princess will break from post 1 with Florent Geroux back aboard.

With four graded stakes wins, including their first grade one, and nearly $4 million in purse earnings, it’s already been a banner year for Rigney Racing and trainer Phil Bauer, and they look to end their 2023 on a high note with Untapable contender Legadema. 

“We feel like this filly is all quality,” Bauer said. “Early on in the summer we thought this horse would be our Breeders’ Cup horse for the Juvenile Fillies. But we had a couple hiccups and just lost all momentum.”

A $590,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, this daughter of Arrogate served notice in her November 23 debut at Churchill. Away alertly in the 6 ½ furlong sprint, she went right to the lead with Martin Garcia aboard, swatted away the pace pressers, and held firm for a convincing 2 ¼ length score. 

“On Thanksgiving it was just one of those deals,” Bauer said. “The race was put up as an extra, and we were going to work her out of the gate again that weekend, so we thought what’s another half-furlong. If that extra hadn’t been there, she might not have run at the Churchill meet. I thought that day she was good enough. It was just a matter of if she was tight enough. I think this is an extremely big ask for her in this race, but the important thing is stepping stones and getting a good read on her moving forward. We’re trying to keep some of these fillies separated. We could have run two in the sprint but we felt this filly really has a lot of upside so let’s go ahead and try her in here.”

By Arrogate, there is reason to believe Saturday’s two-turn distance at Fair Grounds won’t be an issue. 

“I like horses that have natural pace but the thing that’s nice about this filly is she is very easy to get along with,” Bauer said. “So I think she’ll avoid trouble with her tactical speed, but she’s one that if you reach up and grab her she’ll listen to the rider, so we’re excited to see where she goes from here.”

At the co-second choice at 3-1 in the morning line, Legadema will be reunited with jockey Martin Garcia and the team will leave from post 5. 

Here is the complete field for the Untapable from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds):

  1. Alpine Princess (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 3-1)
  2. Band of Gold (Brian Hernandez, Jr., Ken McPeek, 8-1)
  3. Sistina Chapel (Corey Lanerie, Ken McPeek, 5-1)
  4. Fibber (Mitchell Murrill, Bret Calhoun, 4-1)
  5. Legadema (Martin Garcia., Phil Bauer, 3-1)
  6. West Omaha (Joel Rosario, Brad Cox, 5-2)