It isn’t often that you’ll pull a field of 13 together for a Grade 1 race and wind up with an odds-on favorite on the morning line, but that is the case for the 2014 running of the Kentucky Oaks. Outside of the first-place finisher (ultimately disqualified to 2nd for interference) from last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, She’s a Tiger, it seems as if every qualified three-year-old filly in the country has shown up for this race. So that morning line price on Untapable (#13, 4-5 ML) should give you an idea of just how good she has looked in her two starts at the Fair Grounds this year.
Untapable made her seasonal debut in the Rachel Alexandra stakes on February 22nd, and after confidently tracking the leaders out in the clear, she moved up four-wide through the turn and settled things quickly with an eye-catching burst of speed. Her final time for the Rachel Alexandra came in .22 seconds faster than what was required of Kentucky Derby contender Intense Holiday in his Risen Star stakes victory roughly an hour later on the card, and was good for a strong 106 TimeformUS speed figure. Her second start of the year was much like her first: stalking a moderate pace in the Fair Grounds Oaks while out in the clear, moving up to challenge through the turn, and then dusting the field by over 7 lengths in the stretch. She earned a 105 speed figure for that effort.
[Pace figures shown in running lines are for the race leader.]
If you’re looking for cracks in the facade of Untapable, there are a few. First of all, she doesn’t look quite as invincible on our data as she does elsewhere. On our data, in fact, one of her rivals in this Kentucky Oaks field – My Miss Sophia (#11, 8-1) – has earned a faster figure this year. And we suppose that if you’ve been following the sport at all, you realize that her trainer, Steve Asmussen, has been in the midst of a media fire-storm over the past six weeks or so, meaning that his operation is sure to be placed under the microscope at Churchill Downs this week. Will this scrutiny affect the performances of his horses? That’s difficult to quantify, and so, for us, anyway, can neither be formally factored into the handicapping process nor entirely dismissed. And then there is the fact that Untapable drew the far outside post in this field of 13, which is far from ideal.
After considering all of the factors above, we still will have a hard time going against Untapable in this race. She just appears to be too good at this point, and we believe that if she runs her race on Friday afternoon, she will win the Kentucky Oaks.
Since we are not betting her to win in this race, we will have to look elsewhere for wagering value. For us, that means trying to get some longer prices in the mix underneath Untapable. The two horses we will key on, along with the favorite, are Thank You Marylou (#5, 30-1) and Got Lucky (#12, 20-1). With Pace Projector indicating a fast pace in this race, to be set by the aforementioned other fast horse in the field, My Miss Sophia (she earned a 110 TFUS speed figure for her maiden win at Gulfstream, and returned to win the Grade 2 Gazelle at Aqueduct with a 104), we want closers, and both of these horses fit the bill. Thank You Marylou can be considered a question mark over a route of ground, especially after squandering a clean run into a ferocious pace in her last start, but she is talented, and we are willing to give her another shot to stretch out now that she’s back on dirt.
Got Lucky, on the other hand, remains N1x eligible, and so still has to prove that she has the quality to win a race like this. She is, however, a one-run closer who figures to catch the kind of fast pace here that she has yet to see in any of her previous races, and she is the top-rated closer in the field.
Exotics with Untapable on top of Thank You Marylou and Got Lucky.