Charles Fipke's homebred Forever Unbridled was the mild upset victor of Friday afternoon's 52nd running of the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap, finding her best stride late to draw away by about two lengths on the wire. The 4-year-old daughter of Unbridled's Song covered the 1 1/16 miles over Oaklawn's fast main track in 1:43.08 for trainer Dallas Stewart, earning her very first Grade 1 victory.
“It's great to be back at Oaklawn,” said Stewart. “I spent a lot of time here working for Wayne (D. Wayne Lukas) and he was right here with me today. She ran great today and beat a bunch of great fillies. What can I say? Johnny Velazquez, Chuck Fipke, Forever Unbridled. It's a great day and we're glad to be here.”
Florent Geroux sent defending champion Untapable aggressively out of the gate to take the early lead, covering the first quarter-mile in :24.06 about a length in front of the deep six-horse field. Streamline approached along the outside to press the pace while Forever Unbridled and John Velazquez were content to stalk those leaders three-wide in third. Breathing down Untapable's neck, Streamline urged the leader through a half-mile in :48.10, then took command by a neck after three-quarters in 1:12.45.
Velazquez waited patiently through the turn, angling out at the head of the lane to make a run at the leaders. Forever Unbridled drew alongside the leading Streamline in mid-stretch, and found her best stride late after a right-handed reminder from Velazquez, drawing away by about two lengths at the wire. Streamline held on for second, while California invader Tara's Tango closed well to nose out Untapable for third.
“We got a nice position into the first turn once I got her to the outside,” began Velazquez. “She was in the bridle the whole way around. I wanted to put a little pressure on the horse who was second (Streamline) so she'd put a little pressure on the horse who was in front (Untapable). I know she's a nice horse and we didn't want to let them go too easy either. My horse was doing it easy. I didn't have to ask her to do anything. By the time we came to the last turn I kind of let her out a little bit and she kind of got lost a little. I took my time and let her get engaged in the bridle again. When she got into the bridle in the lane, I showed her the whip and she responded right away. She's a filly that gets better and better with each start. I'm glad I got to ride her today.”
Bred in Kentucky, Forever Unbridled is out of Kentucky Oaks-winning mare Lemons Forever (Lemon Drop Kid), also trained by Stewart. Her full sister, Unbridled Forever, is also a Grade 1 winner for Fipke and Stewart. Forever Unbridled, today's victor, has been on a dominating run in recent months, winning the Gr. 3 Comely at Aqueduct in November and most recently the Gr. 3 Houston Ladies' Classic in January. With the Apple Blossom win, her career record now stands at 4-2-2 from 10 starts, with earnings of over $910,000.
“She's a wonderful filly,” said Stewart. “We've got great hopes for the rest of the year. We just need to keep her sound and healthy. Her sister won a Grade I. Her mom did. But I really think this is a really, really good horse. She's something special. Her last three races have been over three different race tracks. She won at Aqueduct, she won at Houston, she trained at the Fair Grounds, she ran here, she won here. That takes a special horse.”
Watch the race replay here:
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