Abel Tasman gained a measure of revenge on Friday when flying past tiring pacesetter Paradise Woods to prevail in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs.
The pair met up in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) on April 8, with Paradise Woods romping by 11 lengths over Abel Tasman.
A new factor was thrown into the mix as the fillies lined up for 143rd edition of the Kentucky Oaks. Rain showers inundated Churchill Downs beginning Thursday, through the overnight and all day Friday, resulting in a very sloppy, sealed track at post time.
When the gates opened, jockey Mike Smith settled Abel Tasman in the back of the 14-filly field after being forced to steady while 6-5 favorite Paradise Woods took command and set a pressured pace with Miss Sky Warrior just to her outside. Those two duked it out until hitting the final turn, when Miss Sky Warrior drew even and then began inching away.
Unfortunately for her, and Paradise Woods, the rest of the field had caught up by the time they hit the stretch. Abel Tasman emerged from the group, pulling away with every stride and easily held a fast-closing Daddys Lil Darling by 1 1/4 lengths to finish 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.62.
It was another length behind Daddys Lil Darling to Lockdown, who in turn had a half-length to spare on fourth-placer finisher Vexatious. while Salty came running fast to take fifth and completing the order of finish were Sailor’s Valentine, Tequilita, Miss Sky Warrior, Ever So Clever, Mopotism, 6-5 favorite Paradise Woods, Jordan’s Henny, Wicked Lick and Farrell.
Sent off the 9-1 fifth choice on Friday, Abel Tasman paid $20.40 for earning her second Grade 1 victory. The Quality Road filly’s only other stakes win came when she made her stakes bow in the Starlet Stakes (G1) at Los Alamitos last year. The bay lass followed up with a second behind Unique Bella in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) to kick off her sophomore campaign.
Abel Tasman then suffered through a barn change when owners China Horse Club and breeder Clearsky Farms took her from trainer Simon Callaghan and placed her with Bob Baffert, who sent her out in the Santa Anita Oaks and this spot. She improved her career line to read 7-4-2-0 and now boasts $912,060 in lifetime earnings.
Bred in Kentucky, Abel Tasman is out of the Deputy Minister mare Vargas Girl and counts as a half-sister Grade 3 winner Sky Girl. Vargas Girl is herself a half-sibling to Grade 1 winner Bevo and Grade 3 heroine Moonlight Sonata, who foaled Grade 2 victors Wilburn and Beethoven.