Untapable heads to the Jersey Shore

July, 23, 2014
07/23/14
4:28
PM ET

There has been a wise-guy answer the last few months whenever a debate arises about the year's best 3-year-old.

California Chrome? Shared Belief? Tonalist?

For some, it's not even one of the guys.

In an era that has seen a filly or mare named Horse of the Year in three of the last five years, the latest damsel who may be the fairest of them all is Untapable.

The filly Untapable will face 3-year-old colts in the Haskell Invitational.NYRA/Adam CoglianeseUntapable will hope to do more than prove she is the top 3-year-old when she takes on colts in Sunday's Haskell.
She's the one generating all of those "un" adjectives, like unbelievable, unbeatable and a dozen other words with a similar connotation. Owner Ron Winchell's daughter of Tapit is a perfect 4-for-4 this year, winning those starts by a combined 31 lengths to emerge as the undisputed leader of the 3-year-old filly division.

On Sunday that winning streak will be put on the line when she steps out of her comfort zone and tackles males for the first time in no less of a setting than the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

Neither California Chrome, Shared Belief nor Tonalist will be joining her at the Jersey Shore, but the field is talented enough to provide some insight as to how high the ceiling may be for a filly who was an easy winner of the Grade 1 Mother Goose by 9 ½ lengths in her last start.

Untapable may not be a robust physical specimen like Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta, but she has certainly been as fleet as any 3-year-old of either sex this year. Her speed figures in races like the Kentucky Oaks and Fair Grounds Oaks were superior to those that Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome and Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist posted in their Triple Crown victories.

Grade 1 stakes, though, are not won on paper and the Haskell will answer the question of whether Untapable is so unstoppable that she can track speedsters like Bayern, Social Inclusion and Wildcat Red and then fend off a stretch bid from a late closer like Medal Count.

The answer, even if it's affirmative, does not mean she can handle the best 3-year-old males, or even the top older males and fillies and mares. Yet if she can emulate Rachel Alexandra's 2009 heroics and defeat males in the Haskell, it will elevate her status above its current state as a filly who's the leading lady in a division with only one major star. No other sophomore filly has been able to make her sweat and a win on Sunday would not only add some more gusto to the battle of the sexes in the 3-year-old division but it would also put her in the conversation about racing's biggest prize, namely Horse of the Year.

She's surely a long way from the finish line in the race for that most coveted of awards. Rachel Alexandra was Horse of the Year in 2009, but aside from the Haskell and races like the Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose -- two races that Untapable has won for trainer Steve Asmussen -- she also captured the Preakness and beat older males in the Woodward.

Untapable's accomplishments are not in the same ballpark -- not yet, anyway -- and Sunday could prove to be a big step in that direction. Untapable may not have been ready for the Triple Crown waters in the spring like Rachel Alexandra was, but she's now facing her biggest challenge in the summer, and if she passes it, in the fall she just might be a central figure in a debate far more lively than who's the best 3-year-old.

• 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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