A strong six-horse field is assembled for Friday’s Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park (Race 9 on the program, approx. post time 6:10 EST), and it features former Eclipse Award winner #4 UNTAPABLE (6-5, morning-line favorite), who will try to win this race for the second straight year. Standing in her way are five fellow distaffers, two from out of town and three who’ve been making their bones over the Arkansas oval.
The shipper that will attract a lot of attention is #3 TARA’S TANGO (9-5), but I am against her. The distaff division on the west coast (aside from Beholder) has been very weak, and the one time she raced away from California she ran up the track in the Cotillion at Parx.
The other out-of-towner is my top pick in the race, #5 FOREVER UNBRIDLED (6-1). She was overmatched during most of her three-year-old campaign last year, but she’s improved drastically in her last three races. She was a late closing fifth in the Raven Run Stakes off an extended layoff, then followed that with a gritty win over next-out stakes winner Carrumba in the Comely Stakes last November. FOREVER UNBRIDLED’s 2016 debut was a sharp one, as she easily dispatched a contentious field in the Sam Houston Ladies Classic. Since that race on January 30 she’s worked well, and she’s one small step forward from winning her first Grade I at a healthy price.
Of course, I will be defensing myself with UNTAPABLE. She may have lost her last race, the Grade II Azeri, but she lost that race last year too before dominating the Apple Blossom. But this field is a little tougher than the one she faced last year, so I think an upset is possible.
FOREVER UNBRIDLED and UNTAPABLE are the only two horses I would consider in the top slot. #1 CALL PAT (9-2), who beat UNTAPABLE in last month’s Azeri, has a definite speed figure ceiling based on her extensive body of work, and her best is probably not good enough to win this one. But she could grab a minor award. So could #6 STREAMLINE (12-1), who will offer far better value underneath. STREAMLINE has finished behind CALL PAT in two straight, but has lost by less than a length each time. Being more lightly raced she could take a small step forward, and her running style well help her cause while CALL PAT will be trying to close late off a potentially slow pace.
The play: $5 win 5, $4 exacta box 4/5, $2 trifecta 4,5/4,5/1,6, $1 trifecta 4,5/1,6/4,5 ($25)
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