Untapable has a date with the boys in Haskell at Monmouth Park
To those who wonder why Untapable is being asked to take on the boys Sunday in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, the better question to raise is "Why not?"
She already proved she is the best 3-year-old filly in the land in sweeping her four starts this year by a combined 31 lengths, including convincing triumphs in the Kentucky Oaks and the Mother Goose in her last two efforts. Why not set out to learn if she is the best 3-year-old period?
Granted, Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome already has tough-to-beat credentials. But he is not expected to compete again until the fall, allowing Untapable to at least enter the discussion if she should become the third filly to win the mile-and-an-eighth Haskell in its 47-year history.
Steve Asmussen, Untapable’s trainer, knows what it takes to get the job done in the Haskell with a filly. His gamble that Preakness victor Rachel Alexandra was good enough was richly rewarded when she romped by six lengths in 2009. Serena’s Song is the only other filly to take the centerpiece of Monmouth’s summer meet, accomplishing that in 1995.
Now, Asmussen sounds like a gambler flush with house money.
"When the year started, our goal with her was the Kentucky Oaks," Asmussen said. "With the performance she gave in the Kentucky Oaks and how she has trained since, we felt it was the right time to give this a chance."
The trainer thinks Untapable is just beginning to mature mentally. "She has been a filly previously who gets a little bit excited, a little bit upset pre-race," he said. "The way she ran in the Mother Goose, the way she acted before the race, was the best to date for her."
It may help, too, that the brilliant filly is being re-united with Rosie Napravnik, the nation’s premier female rider. Although Napravnik missed the Mother Goose with a shoulder injury, she was a key member of the team before that.
"Rosie was available to ride her for the first start of her lifetime," Asmussen noted. "She’s been able to ride her in all but two races. The success that they’ve had, they obviously get along well and make a good combination."
Untapable owns six victories and one third-place finish in eight starts for earnings of $1,302,725. She is a 2-1 favorite as part of a Haskell field of nine to ring up her seventh victory even though she has never before faced such an abundance of early speed.
Bayern was made the 5-2 second choice largely because he is trained by Bob Baffert. The Hall of Fame conditioner owns a record six Haskell victories, with three of those coming in succession from 2010-12. Bayern comes off an eye-opening 7 1/2-length rout in the Woody Stephens Stakes, part of the Belmont Stakes undercard. That race was contested at seven furlongs, which looks to be the ideal distance for Bayern. Baffert said of the Haskell’s added ground: "I’d like to see one more time what he does around two turns, to see if he can handle that."
Social Inclusion and Wildcat Red provide two more starters who possess a tremendous turn of early foot. That should play into the powerful closing kick of Medal Count, the third-place finisher in the Belmont Stakes. Then again, it might well be the filly, Untapable, launching the most dramatic rally of all.