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Untapable, Commanding Curve Lead Big Weekend for Fair Grounds Alumni
Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC's Untapable was one of the stars on display last weekend at Churchill Downs who competed at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots this winter, proving a commanding 4 ½-length winner of Friday's Grade I Longines Kentucky Oaks.
The Steve Asmussen-trained daughter of Tapit reeled off consecutive emphatic victories at the New Orleans oval earlier in the spring, winning the Grade III Rachel Alexandra by 9 ½ lengths before following that up with a 7 ¾-length score in the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks. In winning the Kentucky Oaks, Untapable became the sixth of the last ten Fair Grounds Oaks champions to go on to wear the lilies in Louisville. Her margin of victory was the largest since 2009, when Rachel Alexandra exited the Fair Grounds Oaks to take the Kentucky Oaks by 20 ½ lengths, the largest margin of victory ever in the Kentucky Oaks, en route to being named Horse of the Year.
Untapable was ridden to victory in the Oaks by Rosie Napravnik, who also guided her to both of her previous wins this spring while capturing her fourth consecutive riding title at Fair Grounds. Of Untapable, Napravnik said, “She shuts off and she relaxes. She kind of gives me the ear twitch like ‘when do you want to go?’ She is absolutely fabulous. She is perfect.”
Not only were Untapable's local romps validated by her performance in Friday's Kentucky Oaks, the two fillies who crossed the wire second and third behind her in the Fair Grounds Oaks, both returned with big efforts of their own last weekend.
Fiftyshadesofgold, second behind Untapble in the Fair Grounds Oaks while racing for The Estate of Clarence Scharbauer Jr., turned back in distance to seven furlongs in Friday's Grade III Eight Belles and responded with a hard-fought score as the post-time favorite for trainer Bret Calhoun and jockey Mike Smith.
Charles E. Fipke's Unbridled Forever, a daughter of 2006 Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever, chased Untapable when finishing third in the Fair Grounds Oaks and crossed the wire in that same position in Friday's Kentucky Oaks for trainer Dallas Stewart and jockey Robby Albarado. Unbridled Forever won the Silverbulletday Stakes in January at Fair Grounds, the first designed prep race for the Fair Grounds Oaks.
Stewart's weekend was not done, however, as he also saddled West Point Thoroughbreds' Commanding Curve, a son of Master Command, in Saturday's Grade I Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. A year ago, Stewart sent Charles E. Fipke's Golden Soul into the Kentucky Derby off a fourth-place finish in the Grade II Louisiana Derby, and that Perfect Soul colt would finish a late-running second at 34-1 behind winning favorite Orb.
In a near carbon-copy performance, Commanding Curve rallied from the back of the pack under Shaun Bridgmohan to take ground away late from winning favorite California Chrome, but fell short and completed the Exacta at odds of 37-1. Commanding Curve finished third in the Louisiana Derby in his final start prior to the Kentucky Derby.
Stewart's outlook remained decidedly positive after falling just short with a big longshot in the Kentucky Derby for the second consecutive year.
"I would never get frustrated over that,” said Stewart. “There's a lot of things to be frustrated about. Getting beat in a horse race isn't one of them. I was watching that son of a gun on the turn, and he was passing horses. Boy, he was flying past them.”
Marchman and Central Banker, both of whom stabled and raced at Fair Grounds this winter, were victorious in graded events over the weekend at Churchill Downs.
Marchman, Martin Racing Stable LLC's son of Sharp Humor, captured his second Grade III turf sprint since the end of the Fair Grounds meet in Friday's Grade III Twin Spires Turf Sprint, just 20 days after posting a 23-1 upset in Keeneland's Grade III Shakertown Stakes. Marchman, winner of the Woodchopper Stakes at Fair Grounds in late November, is trained by Bret Calhoun and was ridden in both of his recent victories by Robby Albarado.
Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence's Central Banker, a full son of Speightstown, finished a hard-charging second to Gantry in the 2013 running of the Thanksgiving Handicap for trainer Al Stall, Jr. and followed that effort up with a runner-up finish in Santa Anita's Grade I Malibu. After failing to make an impact in the Grade I Carter Handicap at Aqueduct in early April, he bounced back with a 10-1 score in Saturday's Grade II Churchill Downs Stakes under rider Corey Nakatani, beating multiple Grade I winners in the process.
"On behalf of the entire team at Fair Grounds, I would like to extend our congratulations to all of the Fair Grounds-based connections who performed so admirably this weekend in Kentucky, especially Winchell Thoroughbreds, Steve Asmussen, and Rosie Napravnik for their excellent work with Untapable on Friday in the Kentucky Oaks," said Fair Grounds Track President Tim Bryant. "It is a great source of pride for us that the Fair Grounds Oaks continues to be such a significant stepping stone towards the Kentucky Oaks and that our racing program provides so many top-class racehorses a place to train and race during the winter."