The Grade 1, $600,000 Apple Blossom has a field of six fillies and mares going a mile and 1/16 on dirt. The field is led by the highly accomplished Untapable, who won this race a year ago and is 6-5 on the morning line. The California invader Tara’s Tango figures to be the second choice in the wagering.
According to the TimeformUS Pace Projector, the Apple Blossom will have a pace that is friendly to speed horses. But, as it happens, there is nothing even approaching a pure frontrunner in the field. This is a situation that will render Untapable the early leader, if the Pace Projector proves accurate.
The fastest TimeformUS Late Pace rating in the field, a 120, belongs to the plodder Call Pat.
Here is the field in post position order, with morning line odds in parentheses:
Call Pat (9-2): Deep closer has run off consecutive graded stake wins at Oaklawn. She is the best late-runner in this field by a considerable margin. What is more, she won the Azeri from far back despite the pace being a very gentle one in terms of pace figures. This is a nice mare. However, in 30 starts, she has never run a number that would put her close to Tara’s Tango or Untapable if they run anything like their best. Therefore, with another gentle pace expected today, we expect Call Pat to be limited to a minor award.
Theogony (20-1): She keeps losing to these. Worse, Untapable ran way off her best in the Azeri a month ago, and yet Theogony still could not get to her—let alone to the winner. Six-year-old has never run a race that would threaten the best of these on their best. Plus her closing style figures to place her at a pace disadvantage in this speed-free race. We are looking elsewhere.
Tara’s Tango (9-5):
Jerry Hollendorfer filly became a Grade 1 winner 27 days ago in the Santa Margarita at Santa Anita. She received a friendly trip in that race. She set up “second over” while Penwith set a strong pace (just shy of earning a fast-pace designation) and the 4-5 favorite, Taris, “watchdogged” her. Eventually, Taris put Penwith away, but Tara’s Tango came out three-wide into the stretch and was able to produce a strong late run and overhaul her. For this effort she received a lifetime-top speed figure of 120, which gives her the fastest last-out speed figure in the field by a margin of eight points. Moreover, TimeformUS Race Ratings gave that Grade 1 field a rating of 121, seven points higher than the preliminary Race Rating for today’s field. In her race two back, Tara’s Tango won a Grade 2, and she did not receive an easy trip while doing so. She broke poorly, settled three-wide and then two-wide around the first turn, stalked from the outside down the backstretch, and made a three-wide run around the far turn before getting up by half a length. Today, Pace Projector shows Tara’s Tango sitting in second place at the opening half mile, well within striking distance of Untapable, who is projected to be setting a soft pace. Bejarano makes the trip, and Tara’s Tango is a strong contender at a relatively short price.
Champion mare is now 9 for 18 lifetime. She is a multiple Grade 1 winner. She has a bankroll of almost four million dollars. She projects to be on a clear early lead today. The only wire-to-wire win of her career came in her debut. Her best is best in here. There is an interesting similarity between this year and last year. In last year’s Azeri, coming in off a layoff, Untapable was an unhappy filly. She was throwing her head around and fighting her rider much of the way, and she finished a disappointing second at microscopic odds. In this year’s Azeri, again coming in off a layoff, Untapable looked equally unhappy, again threw her head around and fought her rider, and again finished a disappointing second at microscopic odds. Last year, she righted herself and won the Apple Blossom in her next start. Will history repeat? We would not be at all surprised if it did, but one must ask oneself how much of a price one requires to play for this repeat.
Forever Unbridled (6-1): In November she finally won a graded stake, the Grade 3 Comely at Aqueduct. She earned a lifetime-top speed figure of 114 in doing so. Then she came right back and won another, this one in Texas, but she backed up two points. Today she makes her second start of the year. She has never raced over this surface. Trainer Dallas Stewart gets a mediocre 51 rating off this type of rest between starts. Forever Unbridled has never run fast enough to beat Tara’s Tango and Untapable when they are at their best. In addition, her style does not figure to be flattered by the pace. So she will probably need a few breaks to win this.
Streamline (12-1): Rode the rail for a while in the Azeri. Eased up into the pocket. Slipped out three-wide on the turn. Had dead aim on Untapable in the lane and could not get by her. Considering that Untapable was a rank mess and that this was the best performance of Streamline’s career, we do not love Streamline’s chances today.
The Bottom Line:
We do not find this race all that appetizing from a betting standpoint. The two favorites look best to us. But we will go with a win bet on Tara’s Tango if we can get something above her morning line odds.