Untapable’s Stock Continues to Soar
Untested, unflappable, unstoppable, and unbeatable. At least so far in 2014, all of these adjectives would seem appropriate when describing the powerful three-year-old filly, Untapable. From the Rachel Alexandra and Fair Grounds Oaks in New Orleans, to the Kentucky Oaks, and finally Saturday’s regal tour-de-force in the Grade 1 Mother Goose, Untapable has been strictly way too much horse for her three-year-old filly competition. At Belmont on Saturday, she looked as dominant as ever as she effortlessly cantered away from the field by more than nine lengths. Her superiority over her division has been so apparent that she is drawing comparisons to another Steve Asmussen trainee, Rachel Alexandra. In order for those comparisons to hold more water, though, Untapable will need to move outside of her comfort zone. By this time in her career, the 2009 Horse of the Year had already won the Preakness and was being pointed for the Haskell Invitational. Needless to say, I wouldn’t wish the kind of grueling schedule that Rachel Alexandra took on five years ago on any three-year-old filly, but the question remains for Untapable, before she moves closer toward the “G” word … can she beat the boys or the older mares? I think we will find out sooner than later, and judging by her first four races of the season, I believe she definitely has the horsepower to get the job done.
The New and Improved Majestic Harbor
What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, Majestic Harbor was languishing in the netherworld of optional claimers, and non-threatening attempts in stakes races in Louisiana and Texas. In other words, the five-year-old son of Rockport Harbor was going nowhere fast. Well, he did go somewhere, and the destination was Sean McCarthy’s barn in sunny Southern California. The change of scenery has done him a world of good. I may be showing my age here, but Majestic Harbor reminds me of another older horse transplanted to the Los Angeles area more than a quarter-century ago named Cutlass Reality. Well intended enough, Cutlass Reality was also not much more than an allowance horse in the East before seeing his career take off when he was moved to California. More than a million dollars and a half-dozen graded stakes victories later, all at the age of six, Cutlass Reality became one of the biggest stories of a wonderful year of racing in 1988. Majestic Harbor is not there yet, but five solid races since the move, and Saturday’s huge win in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita have him well on his way. I realize there was a nice pace set-up, and they didn’t come home fast in the Gold Cup, but Majestic Harbor had the tactical speed to stay close, and his move on the turn effectively sealed the deal only one mile into the historic affair. It was impressive. On the strength of his 6 ¼ length romp over a number of solid older males, and the 111 Beyer that came along with it, Majestic Harbor edges out Untapable for the honor of being named ZATT’s Star of the Week.
Wildcat Red Returns in the Pink
Wildcat Red is nothing if not tenacious. He proved that time and time again in the first seven races races of his career, all at Gulfstream Park, including wins in the Hutcheson and Fountain of Youth. The speedster then would go after the biggest bear of all in the Kentucky Derby. I can’t blame the connections, as the Run for the Roses is the one race that everyone wants to win, but honestly, it was not the best scenario for the son of D’wildcat. An ugly and troubled trip, resulting in an 18th place finish ensued, and Wildcat Red became a bit of a forgotten three-year-old, as millions of new Chrome Heads were hatched. Take heed Wildcat Red fans, your boy is back. Looking every bit the part of one of the best three-year-olds in the nations, the Jose Garafallo charge returned from his Louisville debacle in high style on Saturday with a ten-length runaway in the Quality Road Stakes. While the competition was less than stellar, and it came back in the friendly confines of Gulfstream, this was exactly how a very good horse is supposed to bounce back from a tough defeat. Make no mistake, Wildcat Red is a very good horse, and one that should continue to win plenty of money in races nine furlongs and less. Bring on the Haskell next, and possibly an appetizing date with such names as Untapable and Bayern.
Australia of Europe
In the morning hours of Saturday here in the States, Australia backed up his popular victory in the Epsom Derby with an easy win in the Irish Derby. It should be noted that the feat of sweeping the Epsom Derby and Irish Derby has only been completed five times in the last twenty years, as the beautifully bred son of Galileo and Ouija Board joined only his sire, Sinndar, High Chaparral, and Camelot to become dual Derby winners in England and Ireland in recent years. That is the good news. Unfortunately, only four other colts came to The Curragh to test the heavy favorite, so he was expected to handle the test without being put out greatly. Sure enough, he did with very little encouragement needed from his rider Joseph O’Brien. While things will only get tougher from here on out for Australia, he still looks to be any kind. After the Irish Derby, we just don’t know for sure, as the rest of the field was that unchallenging. Having said that, he looked to have all kinds of speed in reserve down the lane, and there is a reason to believe that he can compete with the best older turf horses in the world, just as both his mother and father did in their heyday.
Speaking of turf horses with a big future, how about the four-year-old filly, Riposte? A lightly raced group 2 winner in her native England, the daughter of Dansili was transplanted to the United States over the winter and joined the barn of Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott. I watched intently as the good looking Juddmonte runner ran in consecutive nine furlong races at Gulfstream, Tampa Bay, and Keeneland to begin her American career. With little or no pace in front of her, she ran well in all three, but was defeated each time. Since then Mott has returned her to the distance running that she was familiar with back in Europe, and the results have been most promising. First in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay, at the extended distance of 11 furlongs, Riposte made every pole a winning one on the way to a facile score. Even more impressive to me was Saturday’s run. Facing the top class mare, Tannery, in Saturday’s New York Stakes, Riposte stalked the early lead from fourth, before demonstrating a big turn of foot on the far turn to gain the lead. Tannery was close and coming, but there would be no catching the younger filly down the stretch, and she easily maintained her more than one length advantage all the way to the wire. Tannery was much the best in the 1 ¼ mile, Grade 2 affair, but this one was all about the winner. My guess is these two consecutive stakes wins at Belmont could be just the beginning for this talented filly.
Broodmare of the Year?
Taking an early look at the title of best Broodmare of the Year, serious consideration should be given to the 13-year-old daughter of French Deputy, Champagne Royale. A winner of 4-of-11 lifetime, including three allowance wins at Hastings Park, the gray mare is having a breakout year as a broodmare thanks to two of her sons. Yesterday, as mentioned above, Majestic Harbor scored by far the biggest victory of his career in the Gold Cup, but the six-year-old is not the only grade 1 winner in 2014 for Champagne Royale. Majestic Harbor’s younger half-brother just happens to be one of my favorite sophomores out there, Danza. The son of Street Boss is currently on hiatus, but remember in only his fourth and fifth starts of his career, he impressively won the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, before running a troubled third in the Kentucky Derby. I maintain the belief that Danza is on the short list of most talented horses of his foal crop. If he can make it back in training sometime soon, there is reason to believe he could make it all the way to the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 1. With Majestic Harbor well on his way after taking yesterday’s ‘Win and You’re In’, don’t be surprised to see two sons of the successful young broodmare, Champagne Royal, line up in America’s richest race, and that would certainly be the stuff of a potential broodmare title.