LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Untapable's dominant effort in the Kentucky Oaks gave Rosie Napravnik momentum in her bid to become the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Derby.
Whether she follows up aboard Vicar's in Trouble today and becomes the eighth rider to complete the double remains to be seen, but she is making the Oaks her domain.
Untapable gave Napravnik her second Oaks win in three years and put her on the brink of history by surging past My Miss Sophia entering the stretch for a 4½-length victory Friday in the 140th Oaks at Churchill Downs. "We got the first half completed, so we're moving on to the second half of the double," Napravnik said.
Untapable, the overwhelming favorite in the $1 million race for 3-year-old fillies, earned her third straight victory and fifth in seven starts. She has won her last three by a combined margin of nearly 22 lengths.
"We got into a great position," said Napravnik, who has ridden the horse for all but one start. "She runs her best when she can get into a great stride and she relaxes so nicely. She has grown up and she is maturing. She is magnificent."
Breaking from the far 13th spot, Untapable stayed within reach of early leaders Sugar Shock, My Miss Sophia and Thank You Marylou before getting clear outside turning for home. The winner ran 11/8 miles in 1:48.68, the race's second-fastest time, and paid $4, $3.20 and $2.60.
There was some prerace suspense involving two horses who violently balked in the gate. The first was Empress of Midway, partly owned by Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. She thrashed and flipped then sat down for a tense moment. Jockey Corey Nakatani wasn't hurt and stood by watching as workers quickly got the horse out; she walked away uninjured but was scratched. Minutes after horses in surrounding gates were guided back in, second betting choice Fashion Plate had issues before settling down. She hopped out of the gate and quickly fell behind in finishing 11th of 12 entrants.
Controversy: It was the second Oaks win for trainer Steve Asmussen, the target of allegations by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that he mistreated horses in his care. "Under the circumstances, it couldn't be bigger," he said, after yelling "C'mon, baby girl!" as Untapable drew clear. He expressed his gratitude to owner Ron Winchell for sticking with him and "seeing this through." Asmussen, who trained 2009 winner Rachel Alexandra, raised the possibility of running Untapable against the boys May 17 at Pimlico, especially if Winchell's colt Tapiture, also trained by Asmussen, doesn't run well in the Derby. "I think Tapiture would have to speed up to catch her," the trainer said.
sibling rivalry: Jose and Irad Ortiz Jr. join select company when the brothers ride against each other in the Derby, on Samraat and Uncle Sigh, respectively. The most recent set of siblings in the same Derby were Eddie and Sam Maple in 1984. The others: Chris and Greg McCarron in 1976, and Milo and Angel Valenzuela in 1960. None won the race in the year they competed against each other.