A girl in the Preakness, but not that girl

May, 15, 2014

On the first weekend in May, there was considerable speculation that a filly would emulate Rachel Alexandra and tackle the boys in the Preakness.

On Wednesday, when post positions were drawn for the second leg of the Triple Crown, it happened.

But it wasn't "That Girl."

The girl who would have added zest to the Preakness is Untapable. She's the one who, on the day before the Kentucky Derby, won the distaff version of the Run for the Roses, the Kentucky Oaks, by 4 ½ highly convincing lengths.

Some speed figure services even rate Untapable as a faster runner than Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome.

The same, though, cannot be said about Ria Antonia, the filly who will challenge California Chrome and eight other males in the Preakness.

She's coming off a 15 ¾-length loss in the Kentucky Oaks -- to the aforementioned Untapable -- and is perhaps the strangest horse to see among the Preakness entrants. If she was no match for the gals in the Oaks, why is she trying boys in the Preakness?

Preakness Stakes contender Ria Antonia stands on the track at Pimlico.AP Photo/Garry JonesFilly Ria Antonia comes into the Preakness off a loss in the Kentucky Oaks two weeks ago.
"We have a healthy, sound horse, and we are ready to roll the dice," trainer Tom Amoss said earlier this week. "We are looking forward to running. I see it as California Chrome versus the rest. If he runs his race, he'll win. If it is not his day, it opens a number of possibilities and opportunities for the other runners, including us."

Seeing Amoss' name as Ria Antonia's trainer only adds to the odd circumstances surrounding a filly who won last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies via disqualification but is the 30-1 outsider in the Preakness. In the Oaks, Bob Baffert was her trainer. The Hall of Famer had her for two races -- a second as the 6-5 favorite in the Santa Anita Oaks and the Kentucky Oaks -- before she was transferred to Amoss' care last week.

Baffert had become the filly's trainer earlier in the year following a fourth-place finish in the Rachel Alexandra on Feb. 22, when she was moved from the barn of trainer Jeremiah Englehart, who saddled her in the Breeders' Cup.

So what is a filly with no wins in 2014 but three trainers doing in the Preakness? Is she ducking Untapable?

Apparently signing on for a Battle of the Sexes was the idea of owners Ron Paolucci of Loooch Racing Stable and Christopher Dunn, who have gone through trainers faster than George Steinbrenner plowed through New York Yankees managers.

"The idea [to run in the Preakness] was Ron's," Amoss said. "She passed all the tests with us physically, mentally and how she trained. I got to see her before the [Kentucky] Oaks, and she prepared well and worked well before the race. I don't know what happened in the Oaks, but I like the way she looks now."

Looks may not be enough for a filly who has been consistently inconsistent. Prior to Ria Antonia's controversial win in the Breeders' Cup, she lost by six lengths in the Frizette. In her 2014 debut and first race since the BCJF, she lost by 14 ¼ lengths to Untapable in the Rachel Alexandra.

Perhaps it's that pattern of bad race-good race that inspired her connections to take a shot in Saturday's $1.5 million race at Pimlico, even though she has the highest morning line odds of the 10 Preakness starters and is at least 10 times the price Untapable would be.

They even lined up Calvin Borel to ride her -- the same Calvin Borel who was aboard the last filly to win the Preakness, Rachel Alexandra in 2009.

"We're very happy with what we're trying to do," Paolucci said at Wednesday's post position draw. "I think it's going to be a tactically ridden race. My filly has a lot of natural speed and we're going to tell Calvin not to take her too far off the pace. We've always wanted to run in this race. She's a very big filly and very sound. The fact that she's coming back in two weeks gives her an absolute edge."

Perhaps, but it would be an even bigger edge if this girl had a different name -- like Untapable, racing's "That Girl."

• Bob Ehalt grew up a few furlongs from Belmont Park and has followed horse racing as a fan, turf writer or owner since 1971.
• Has won three Associated Press Sports Editors awards and was the recipient of the '09 Breeders' Cup media award for outstanding social media.



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