HOT SPRINGS -- It was easy to predict what trainer Donnie Von Hemel looked for first after post positions were drawn Tuesday for the $600,000 Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap to be held Friday at Oaklawn Park.
Von Hemel wasn't alone, either.
"Everybody wants to know where Untapable is," he said.
Untapable is among an assemblage of talented horses who will rule the remainder of this week at Oaklawn during the Racing Festival of the South, which resumes today with the $100,000 Carousel Stakes for fillies and mares 4-year-olds and up as the featured race.
Much like Tiger Woods at this weekend's Masters golf tournament, flawed record or not, Untapable will draw the most attention -- flawed record or not -- leading up to the Apple Blossom Handicap.
Untapable, trained by Steve Asmussen, won the Kentucky Oaks and the Breeders' Cup Distaff last year when she was a unanimous choice for the 2014 Eclipse Award for 3-year-old females after winning 6 of 7 starts and $2.8 million.
She grabbed Von Hemel's interest last month.
Von Hemel trains 5-year-old Gold Medal Dancer, who raced with Untapable and three others in the Grade II $300,000 Azeri Stakes over 1 1/16th miles at Oaklawn on March 14.
Gold Medal Dancer, at 9-1, beat Untapable, the 1-9 favorite, by 1 1/2 lengths in the Azeri for her first stakes victory, but several factors worked against Untapable in the race. It was her first race at Oaklawn or on a wet track, and her first race since winning the Breeders' Cup nearly 4 1/2 months earlier.
Gold Medal Dancer and Untapable will square off again Friday in the Apple Blossom, also at 1 1/16th miles. Untapable will break from the No. 2 post Friday, while Gold Medal Dancer drew the No. 5 post position.
Von Hemel said the rematch, with a field of seven, should be an even stiffer challenge for Gold Medal Dancer.
"Untapable will have a race over the race track, and she's worked very well here in the morning," Von Hemel said. "Horses are generally better the second race back, so I think she'll be more difficult to beat, I sure do."
David Longinotti, Oaklawn's director of racing, said the race between Gold Medal Dancer and Untapable should add to the the Apple Blossom's appeal.
"First, it's got that Roman number by it, Grade I," Longinotti said. "That's always going to make it more interesting, and I'm sure [Asmussen] is confident. He didn't really commit to the race until her last workout on Monday."
Longinotti said he was particularly impressed by Untapable's six-furlong work of 1 minute, 10.8 seconds March 30.
"I haven't seen many 1:10s," he said.
Gold Medal Dancer also has worked well, most recently with a 59.2 clocking for five furlongs March 28.
"I'm very happy with her," Von Hemel said. "I think we have a few more lengths on her. I do. We'll find out Friday, but I think she'll need them."
Sports on 04/08/2015