Retirement or pregnant pause for victorious Napravnik?
ARCADIA, Calif. – Thoroughbred racing fans would do well to raise a glass to Untapable, jockey Rosie Napravnik, trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Ron Winchell.
Untapable not only won the $2-million Breeders’ Cup Distaff by 1¼ lengths on Friday but her performance was impressive enough that she thrust herself into the Horse of the Year discussion if Shared Belief, the undefeated favorite for the $5-million Classic on Saturday, should falter.
Napravnik announced that she will leave the game after she fulfills the last of her Breeders’ Cup assignments on Saturday because she is approximately seven weeks pregnant. Asmussen must be saluted for a brilliant training job after Untapable completed a magnificent 6-for-7 season during which her only blemish was a fifth-place finish against the males in the Haskell Invitational Stakes on July 27 at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J.
As for Winchell, cheers to him after he announced his intention to campaign Untapable as a 4-year-old. Racing, like all sports, sure needs star power. And Untapable, winner of 8 of 11 career starts with more than $2-million in earnings, shines brightly.
Untapable, a rousing 4 1/2-length winner in the Kentucky Oaks, became the first Oaks winner to prevail in the Distaff since Ashado in 2004. When Asmussen was asked about her Horse of the Year prospects, he replied: "I can’t make up other people’s minds, but she is for me."
Don’t Tell Sophia, a vivid example of the bargains that can sometimes be found at auction, closed for second. She was purchased for the mere sum of $1,000 by trainer Phil Sims as a yearling in 2009 at the Keeneland’s September yearling sale. Iotapa weakened to be third. Close Hatches, the second choice in the wagering, showed little in fading to last in the field of 11.
Napravnik was excited on so many levels after Untapable made her first test against older fillies and mares look easy. The bay daughter of Tapit, a Winchell homebred, relaxed in sixth during the backstretch run, filling her rider with confidence with every efficient stride.
"I was sitting on go," said Napravnik, "and she was awaiting my call."
Napravnik was all but glowing as she discussed the excitement she and her husband, Joe Sharp, feel as they prepare to start a family. Sharp, a former assistant, recently started to train on his own. Napravnik, whose rise to prominence thrilled racing fans, did not rule out an eventual return.
Although she first said she is retiring, she later described the period she will be away as "indefinite."
She explained, "I am not thinking about a comeback in 10 months, but I can’t promise to stay off a horse forever."
Untapable was so thoroughly beaten in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies here last year that Napravnik eased her in struggling home eighth of 10 starters. It appears Asmussen made a critical adjustment this year by bringing her to Santa Anita early to familiarize her with the surface and her new surroundings.
She put in the first of her four workouts at Santa Anita on Oct. 5. She turned in an explosive workout on Oct. 19, blistering five furlongs in :58.60 seconds, the fastest of 66 moves at the distance that morning.
It was a sign of the sterling performance that was to come.