Hot Springs, Ark. (Friday, March 13, 2015) – The Queen is back. Untapable, the country’s champion 3-year-old filly last year, is scheduled to make her 2015 debut in the $300,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares Saturday at Oaklawn.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Untapable will be making her first start since winning the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) Oct. 31 at Santa Anita. It capped a flawless campaign against females for Untapable, who was 6 for 7 overall.
“She’s put in good work – nothing amazing,” Asmussen said. “We’re not Breeders’ Cup ready, but it’s a good starting point for a very talented athlete.”
Untapable had been based at Fair Grounds in New Orleans before arriving at Oaklawn on Monday. asmussen said he would have preferred a work over the track leading up to the 1 1/16-mile Azeri, but couldn’t because of severe winter weather last week.
Untapable, the 1-2 program favorite, will break from the rail under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez and carry co-top weight of 122 pounds.
“She’s filled out since last year,” Asmussen said. “She looks good.”
Multiple stakes winner Mufajaah, another 4-year-old daughter of Tapit, is scheduled to meet Untapable for the first time in the Azeri. Mufajaah has emerged as the leading older female at the Oaklawn meeting, rallying for victories in the $100,000 Pippin Stakes Jan. 17 and the $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) Feb. 15. Mufajaah is the early 4-1 second choice.
“Obviously, Steve’s filly, I don’t think she can possibly be cranked up to run the race of her life,” said Dan Peitz, who trains Mufajaah. “And she won’t have to, possibly. I know how fast she runs on her good races. They’re a lot faster than anybody else in the race. She can be, probably, 85 percent and still probably be good enough to win the race.”
Flashy American and Gold Medal Dancer, second and third, respectively, in the Bayakoa are also returning for the Azeri. Flashy American was beaten a neck, while Gold Medal Dancer finished three-quarters of a length behind in her first start since Aug. 29.
Donnie K. Von Hemel, who trains Gold Medal Dancer, said he hopes his 5-year-old will improve in her second start off a lengthy layoff, and, just as important, catch Untapable slightly off her game in her 2015 debut.
“Most likely winner of the day? Probably,” Von Hemel said. “But you’ve got to take a shot. It’s a Grade 2, big purse and our mare is ready to go.”
Diva’s Diamond and multiple stakes winner Sugar Shock are also entered.
Probable post time for the 1 1/16-mile Azeri is 4:21 p.m. (Central).
The complete field for the Azeri Stakes, in post position order, with riders and morning line odds: Untapable, John Velazquez, 1-2; Diva’s Diamond, Cliff Berry, 30-1; Sugar Shock, Channing Hill, 10-1; Gold Medal Dancer, Luis Quinonez, 10-1; Mufajaah, Manny Esquivel, 4-1 and Flashy American, Chris Landeros, 5-1.