Untapable Looks Best Again in Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn
Untapable Looks Best Again in Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn: Searching for another fantastic year, Eclipse Award winning three-year-old filly Untapable makes her return in the Grade 2 Azeri at Oaklawn Park on Saturday. Untapable only lost once last year, proving victorious against females in six straight graded stakes races dating back to last February. Her only misstep came against males in the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth Park.
Needless to say, Untapable’s opponents face an uphill challenge if they hope to defeat the champion. Those wishing to play against the filly can hope Untapable fails to mature while the others catch up or simply regresses for mysterious reasons.
For example, in 1989 few predicted that future Hall of Famer Winning Colors would only win an allowance and ungraded stakes race in her four-year-old season while failing to hit the top three in five graded stakes attempts. The previous year, she won prestigious Grade 1 races such as the Santa Anita Oaks, Santa Anita Derby, and Kentucky Derby.
She ended 1988 with an excellent second against the undefeated Personal Ensign in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff but never looked the same and finished a distant ninth in the 1989 edition.
Of course, in 2011 Royal Delta reigned as the best three-year-old filly, and the rest of her career turned out fine as she won the Champion Older Mare award in 2012 and 2013. Also, many star fillies such as 2007 Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches never come back for four-year-old seasons which makes evaluating historical trends difficult.
Analyzing horses individually makes more sense. Until proven otherwise, Untapable ranks as the classiest horse in the Azeri, and a loss does not appear probable.
The race has only drawn a small field of six, lessening the chance of Untapable becoming blocked in traffic. First, eliminate Diva’s Diamond. Her class runs far below Untapable and slightly below the other four.
Sugar Shock offers some class for bettors as a multiple graded stakes winner and holds the best chance to pull off the upset. Her late running style while winning the American Beauty in January leaves some confusion as to what tactics she employs though. Last year, Sugar Shock competed as a speed horse that handicappers could predict being sent to the lead. Regardless, if Sugar Shock runs her absolute best race, she can win this one.
Gold Medal Dancer recently lost the Grade 3 Bayakoa to Mufajaah by a slim margin after contesting the pace. If Sugar Shock rates, maybe Gold Medal Dancer will receive an uncontested lead. An uncontested lead in dirt racing normally results in a huge advantage coming down the stretch.
As for Mufajaah, her form this year looks more reliable than last year’s. She still faces a tough situation if she spots the field several lengths again, since Untapable projects to make the first move from midpack. Mufajaah needs a decent enough pace and must outkick Untapable despite giving her a head start.
Flashy American was barely defeated by Mufajaah in the Bayakoa after coming from the back part of the field as well. Taking a horse that ran in the same running group (whether speed type, stalker, or closer) as a fellow competitor while failing to defeat that horse is a poor angle. In spite of that fact, she can hit the board.
Sugar Shock and Mufajaah have more room to improve than Gold Medal Dancer and Flashy American because their ceilings run higher as four-year-old fillies that were not dazzling as three-year-olds. Gold Medal Dancer and Flashy American turned fix and six, respectively, and their best races seem clear.
Untapable will probably defeat them anyways under jockey John Velazquez while continuing her reign as the nation’s best dirt female. Winchell Thoroughbreds took some criticism for leaving her with trainer Steve Asmussen early last year, but overall, Asmussen has done a great job. Consider Sugar Shock and Mufajaah if playing for an upset. Limit Gold Medal Dancer and Flashy American to underneath in tickets.
Azeri Stakes 2015 Post Positions & Odds
Race #7 4:21 PM CT
1 Untapable 1-2 Velazquez/Asmussen
2 Diva’s Diamond 30-1 Berry/Broberg
3 Sugar Shock 10-1 Hill/Anderson
4 Gold Medal Dancer 10-1 Quinonez/Von Hemel
5 Mufajaah 4-1 Esquivel/Peitz
6 Flashy American 5-1 Landeros/McPeek