What do Kelso, Cicada, Buckpasser, Riva Ridge, Secretariat, and Forego have in common? Well yes, they are all members of racing’s Hall of Fame, but they also were major upset victims of one Hall of Fame trainer. Allen Jerkens didn’t earn the nickname Giant Killer for nothing. For more than 50 years, Jerkens has been able to get his charges ready to run their best on big race days. Saturday at Belmont Park, he will have the opportunity to shock the world once again, this time with House Rules taking on the prohibitive favorite Untapable in the Grade 1 Mother Goose. You know what? I really like the Chief’s chances to do it again.
There is no denying that Untapable has been excellent in three starts this year. In all three races she sat a perfect stalking trip under Rosie Napravnik, before blowing the doors off her competition, including in the prestigious Kentucky Oaks. Does this make Untapable unbeatable? I’m going to go out on a limb and say no, the filly who lost her last two starts of 2013, has a forced rider change, hasn’t raced in two months, and is cutting back to one turn, is some measure less than unbeatable.
On the other end of the odds spectrum, House Rules is sitting on a big one, In fact, I think the three-year-old daughter of Distorted Humor is sitting on a powder keg. I’ve been waiting for the right spot for the improving filly for some time, and Saturday looks to be the day.
After romping in a maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park, she was moved right into graded stakes racing. Her two second place finishes, in the Davona Dale, and Gulfstream Park Oaks, were both solid. In each effort she faced a talented speed filly with little pace pressure on a speed favoring racetrack. I was convinced that given the right circumstances, Jerkens had a filly that could win something big. He freshened her, and brought her to his home base of New York.
Admittedly, House Rules was not my top pick in the Acorn. She was one of the ones that I used underneath, but saw the cutback in distance and the freshening as a “look out for her next time” situation. Sure enough, she finished off the board, but I loved what I saw.
Breaking a beat slow, she was shuffled back to last in the field of 13, a position she had never dealt with before. Still last heading into the far turn, she began to roll, but on the rail, she was not going to find the room she would need. Alex Solis yanked her six, seven, eight paths out, and the filly in yellow silks lost all kinds of ground as she sling-shotted into the stretch run. House Rules finished well, despite the trip she had received. I’m hoping that new rider, Joel Rosario, finds her a good trip on Saturday, and I’m also hoping that few handicappers see what I saw in her sixth place finish in the Acorn.
Since the Acorn three weeks ago, House Rules has thrown down an excellent six furlong work for her legendary trainer. The six furlong breeze at Belmont in 1:13 flat tells me that Jerkens has this one ready to fire her best. Still, the best of House Rules may not be quite good enough.
Maybe Untapable will back up the hype. Maybe she will prove to be too good for House Rules and the rest of the Mother Goose field, but at odds of 1-9, I’m willing to take a shot against her. In fact, I’m willing to take a big shot against her. It’s not often that I feel this good about a 10-1 shot. The last time was Sweet Reason in the Acorn.
You heard it here first … House Rules over Untapable in the Mother Goose.